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NFL legend Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley, have teamed up with Georgia Tech to offer an academic scholarship through their PeyBack Foundation to incoming freshmen in honor of former Yellow Jackets star Demaryius Thomas, who died in December 2021. 

The scholarship will be open to incoming freshmen from Laurens County in central Georgia where Thomas was born and grew up, or people with need from surrounding areas. The gift will fund both full and partial scholarships for need-based students throughout their entire time at Georgia Tech. 

"An important part of Demaryius' legacy was the way he inspired the next generation to pursue their dreams with the same perseverance and determination that defined him," Manning said in a statement. "Through this scholarship to Georgia Tech, Demaryius will have a lasting impact on deserving youth from his hometown area who can follow in his footsteps and accomplish great things in life."

In addition to the scholarship, Georgia Tech announced that August 8 (8/8) will be recognized as Demaryius Thomas Day from now on. Thomas wore eight at Georgia Tech and 88 in the NFL. The Yellow Jackets will honor a specific player by bestowing Thomas' No. 8 jersey to him on that day. Georgia Tech will also wear a No. 8 helmet decal and paint No. 8 on the field in Thomas' memory.  

Despite playing in Paul Johnson's triple-option offense during his final two years of college, Thomas excelled at Georgia Tech. He posted 1,154 yards receiving and eight touchdowns on just 46 catches as a junior in 2009 to earn first-team All-ACC honors. 

Thomas died suddenly at his home in Roswell, Georgia, on December 9, 2021, due to an unspecified medical issue. He was only 16 days away from his 34th birthday. Thomas played 10 years in the NFL after being selected in the first round by the Denver Broncos and earned two All-Pro honors and four Pro Bowls. 

Manning teamed up with Thomas from 2012-15 as the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season, Manning's second and final Super Bowl victory. 

"Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend," Manning said. "My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor D.T.'s memory."