KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Peyton Manning’s charitable foundation has established a scholarship fund at Georgia Tech University in memory of Demaryius Thomas, his longtime teammate who died unexpectedly last year.

University officials on Wednesday announced the establishment of the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment by the PeyBack Foundation, the charitable organization founded by NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley Manning.

The endowment will fund academic scholarships for incoming Georgia Tech freshmen students from Laurens County, Ga., where Thomas was born and raised, who demonstrate significant financial need. Thomas was known for his charitable work, especially with youth initiatives.

“Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend,” Peyton Manning said. “My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor D.T.’s memory by partnering the PeyBack Foundation with Georgia Tech to establish the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment.

“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. 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.”

After a record-setting three-year stint at Georgia Tech, Thomas was selected 22nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft and played 10 seasons before retiring in June 2021. He spent 8 1/2 years with the Denver Broncos where his prolific connection with Manning powered the team to a Super Bowl 50 victory.

Thomas caught 36 of his 60 NFL touchdowns on passes from Manning, the fourth-most by any receiver during Manning’s 18-year career. He owns 16 Broncos franchise records, including most receiving yards in a single-season and most career 100-yard receiving games.

“We are grateful to Peyton and Ashley Manning and the PeyBack Foundation for establishing the Demaryius Thomas Scholarship,” Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury said. “Thanks to their generous contribution, Demaryius’ legacy will be carried on through Georgia Tech students from Laurens County and surrounding areas for years to come and his memory will be celebrated each year during our 8/8 Day recognitions.”

‘Demaryius Thomas Day’ will be recognized annually on campus in honor of the Thomas Scholarship on August 8 (8/8), in memory of his No. 8 jersey he wore in college and the No. 88 he wore for most of his NFL career. The university will recognize recipients of the scholarship on that day and partner with a local youth-oriented organization for community service among other festivities each year.

Thomas died suddenly on Dec. 9, 2021 in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell. He was 33 years old. Police attributed his death to a ‘medical issue’ and a family member told the Associated Press she believed he may have suffered a seizure.