Demaryius Thomas was two weeks away from turning 34 years old when he was found dead in the shower of his home in Roswell, Georgia. While a cause of death has yet to be announced, his family believes it was a seizure – something he had been experiencing often since 2019.
Nearly eight months after his death, researchers at Boston University are confirming Thomas had Stage 2 CTE – also known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head. It’s a very common disease among football players.
While CTE won’t directly cause death, the disease changes a person’s behavior and personality in a way that puts them in danger. Many people with CTE experience similar symptoms such as memory loss, paranoia, and other erratic behavior not normally displayed by that individual.
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Demaryius Thomas Isn’t the Only Former Athlete With CTE
Demaryius Thomas was a 22nd overall draft pick by the Denver Broncos back in 2010. The talented wide receiver spent 10 seasons in the NFL, racking up 724 catches on 1,186 targets for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and 2016 Super Bowl champ.
He now joins a long list of former football players to be diagnosed with CTE, something that can only be confirmed post-mortem – meaning after they’ve passed away. With that said, many athletes start to experience symptoms of CTE and it’s usually a cause for immediate concern.
CTE continues to haunt the NFL – as well as other violent sports, such as boxing, mixed martial arts, and hockey. In fact, some of the most influential football players, including Demaryius Thomas, have been confirmed with CTE. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable ones.
20. FB Kevin Turner
Kevin Turner was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1992 NFL Draft. After three years with the Patriots, Turner played five more with the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring. He passed away on March 24, 2016 due to his CTE – he was only 46 years old.
During his eight-year career in the NFL, he recorded 2,650 yards from scrimmage (2,015 receiving and 635 rushing) and 11 total touchdowns. He had at least 500 yards from scrimmage in three seasons, as well as 448 yards in 1996 and 326 yards in 1998. He retired two years later.
19. LB Fred McNeill
Fred McNeill was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 17th overall draft pick in 1974. He spent 12 seasons in the league, all of which with the team that drafted him. He passed away on November 3, 2015 after a brief struggle with ALS and was diagnosed with CTE post-mortem.
During his 12-year career in the NFL, McNeill recorded 15.0 unofficial sacks, 7 interceptions, and 16 fumble recoveries in 167 games (122 games started). He finished the 1998 season with two interceptions and six fumble recoveries, then a career-best 3.5 sacks the following year.
18. SS Andre Waters
Andre Waters went undrafted in 1984, but quickly signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. He would play the next 10 seasons with the Eagles before playing two years with the Arizona Cardinals. He committed suicide in 2006 as his CTE led to depression.
During his 12-year career in the NFL, the strong safety had 931 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, and 15 interceptions in 156 games (104 starts). He wore No. 20 and went down as one of the game’s hardest hitters of all-time – most players feared him.
17. QB Earl Morrall
Earl Morrall was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the 2nd overall draft pick in 1956. Over the next 21 years, he would play for the Lions, Dolphins, Ravens, Giants, Steelers, and 49ers as both a starter and reserve. He passed away on April 25, 2014 due to Parkinson’s disease.
During his 21-year career in the NFL, Morrall threw for 20,809 yards, 161 touchdowns, and 148 interceptions. He had a 63-36-3 record as a starter, was the 1968 MVP, was a two-time Pro Bowler, won three Super Bowls, and won an NFL Championship. He did a little bit of everything.
16. RB Mosi Tatupu
Mosi Tatupu was drafted by the New England Patriots in the eighth round of the 1978 NFL Draft. He spent the next 13 years with them before spending one season with the Los Angeles Rams. He passed away on February 23, 2010 due to a heart attack and was later diagnosed with CTE.
During his 14-year career in the NFL, Tatupu ran for 2,415 yards and 18 touchdowns – as well as 843 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. He earned his first and only Pro Bowl selection in 1986, finishing the year with 317 total yards from scrimmage and a lone rushing touchdown.
15. DL Bubba Smith
Bubba Smith was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the first overall draft pick in 1967. He spent the next five seasons with the Colts before playing two seasons with the Raiders and two more with the Texans. He died on August 3, 2011 from acute drug intoxication and heart disease.
During his nine-year career in the NFL, Smith had 52.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries in 111 games (83 starts). He was a two-time Pro Bowler who had at least 10 sacks in two seasons – 1968 and 1970. He also played Moses Hightower in all six of the Police Academy films.
14. DL Shane Dronett
Shane Dronett was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft. He played 4.5 seasons with the team before playing the final 5.5 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He committed suicide on January 21, 2009 after struggling with CTE symptoms.
During his 10-year career in the NFL, Dronett recorded 316 tackles, 44.0 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, and 3 interceptions in 139 games played (86 starts). He had at least 6.0 sacks in six different seasons, proving to be consistent – despite frequent injuries.
13. RB Ollie Matson
Ollie Matson was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals with the third overall draft pick in 1952. Over the next 14 years, he also played with the Rams, Eagles, and Lions. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972 and later passed away on February 19, 2011 with CTE-related symptoms.
During his 14-year career in the NFL, Matson recorded 8,458 yards from scrimmage (5,173 rushing yards and 3,285 receiving yards) and 63 total touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons and was named to the NFL’s HOF All-1950’s Team.
12. DB Dave Duerson
Dave Duerson was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft. He played seven seasons with the team before spending a season with the Giants and three more with the Cardinals. He committed suicide on February 17, 2011 after sending a text to his family.
During his 11-year career in the NFL, Duerson recorded 16.0 sacks, 5 fumble recoveries, 20 interceptions, and one defensive touchdown. He had his best season in 1986 when he finished with six interceptions and 7.0 sacks. He was a two-time champ and four-time Pro Bowl.
11. LB Tommy Nobis
Tommy Nobis, also known as Mr. Falcon, was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the first overall draft pick in 1966. He spent 11 years in the league, all of which with Atlanta. He died of an extended illness on December 13, 2017 and was later diagnosed with the most severe form of CTE.
During his 11-year career in the NFL, Nobis recorded 9.5 sacks, 13 fumble recoveries, 12 interceptions, and 2 defensive touchdowns in 133 games played (132 starts). He was a five-time Pro Bowler, the 1966 Rookie of the Year, and named to the HOF All-1960’s Team.
10. RB Rob Lytle
Rob Lytle was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 1977 NFL Draft. He spent seven seasons in the league, all of which with the Broncos. He passed away on November 20, 2010 of a heart attack and was later diagnosed with moderate to severe CTE.
During his seven-year career in the NFL, Lytle recorded 2,013 yards from scrimmage (1,451 rushing yards and 562 receiving yards) and 14 total touchdowns. He also had a legendary college career at the University of Michigan, eventually being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
9. QB Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft. He spent the next decade with the team before playing two seasons with the Texans and three with the Saints. He passed away on July 8, 2015 of colon cancer and was later diagnosed with CTE.
During his 15-year career in the NFL, Stabler threw for 27,938 yards, 194 touchdowns, and 222 interceptions. He had a 96-49-1 record as a starting quarterback, was MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1974, won the Super Bowl 1977, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
8. OL Mike Webster
Mike Webster was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round of the 1974 NFL Draft. He spent the next 15 seasons with the Steelers before playing his final two years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He passed away on September 24, 2002 after struggling with CTE symptoms.
During his 17-year career in the NFL, Webster played in 245 games and started 217 of them. He was a staple on the Steelers’ offensive line during the late-1970s and throughout the 1980s. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, four-time champion, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997.
7. WR Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He spent the next seven years with them before playing five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He died of alcoholism on February 15, 2021 and was diagnosed with Stage 2 CTE.
During his 12-year career in the NFL, Jackson caught 540 passes on 1,035 targets for 9,080 yards and 57 touchdowns. He was a three-time Pro Bowler that recorded at least 1,000 yards six times in a seven-year stretch between 2008 and 2014. He played in 155 games (137 starts).
6. WR Chris Henry
Chris Henry was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played five seasons with the Bengals, but his career got cut short after he passed away on December 17, 2009 due to injuries sustained after falling off a truck during a domestic dispute.
During his five-year career in the NFL, Henry had 119 receptions on 232 targets for 1,826 yards and 21 touchdowns. He had a bright future ahead of him and while his numbers never reached legendary status, he was a consistent receiver that loved to find the back of the endzone often.
5. RB-DB-QB Frank Gifford
Frank Gifford was drafted by the New York Giants with the 11th overall pick in the 1952 NFL Draft. He did a little bit of everything for the Giants over the next 12 seasons before retiring in 1965. He died of natural causes a week before his birthday on August 9, 2015 – he was 84.
During his 12-year career in the NFL, Gifford had 3,609 rushing yards and 34 rushing touchdowns, 5,434 receiving yards and 43 receiving touchdowns, 14 passing touchdowns, and even caught two interceptions as a defensive back. He’s a one-time champion and MVP.
4. RB Cookie Gilchrist
Cookie Gilchrist, born Carlton Chester Gilchrist, started his career in the ORFU and CFL before signing with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. He spent six seasons in the league, also playing for the Broncos and Dolphins. He passed away at an assisted living facility on January 10, 2011.
During his six-year career in the NFL, Gilchrist ran for 4,293 yards and 37 touchdowns – 25 rushing touchdowns in his first two seasons. He also added 1,135 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and won the 1964 AFL Championship.
3. TE Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent the next three years with the team, forming a powerful tight end duo with Rob Gronkowski. He committed suicide in a cell on April 19, 2017 after being convicted of a murder.
During his brief three-year career in the NFL, Hernandez caught 175 passes on 260 targets for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also recorded 35 catches for 360 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, though he never won a championship or made it to the Pro Bowl.
2. TE John Mackey
John Mackey was drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the second round of the 1963 NFL Draft. He spent the next nine seasons with the Colts before playing his final season with the San Diego Chargers. He passed away on July 6, 2011 after a battle with dementia and CTE symptoms.
During his 10-year career in the NFL, Mackey caught 331 passes for 5,236 yards and 38 touchdowns. He was a five-time Pro Bowler, 1968 NFL champion, 1970 Super Bowl champion, was a member of the HOF All-1960’s Team, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
1. LB Junior Seau
Junior Seau was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the fifth overall draft pick in 1990. He spent the next 13 seasons with the team before spending three years with Miami and four years with New England. He committed suicide on May 2, 2012 and was later diagnosed with CTE.
During his 20-year career in the NFL, Seau recorded 1,847 tackles, 56.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries, 18 interceptions, and one defensive touchdown. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 2015.
CTE Continues to Terrorize Athletes Every Year
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is one of the biggest risks and dangers among football players today. The more they play the game they love, the more at-risk they are of developing CTE and experiencing symptoms. It’s an unfortunate and harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless.
In fact, there are current living legends of the sport that have already reported CTE symptoms – including Joe DeLamielleure, O.J. Simpson, Brett Favre, Tim Green, Tony Dorsett, Larry Johnson, Jamal Lewis, Daryl Talley, Antwaan Randle El, and Frank Wycheck.
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Ever since doctors and researchers started testing for CTE in NFL players that donate their brain to science, there have been well over 300 players confirmed with CTE. One study even found that 99% of the brains they tested had some stage of CTE – like we said, a harsh reality.
Texans WR John Metchie III Diagnosed With Leukemia and 25 Other Athletes Who Battled Cancer
The Houston Texans recently learned their rookie wide receiver John Metchie III has been diagnosed with leukemia and will likely miss his entire first season. The announcement came on Sunday and resulted in the Texans placing Metchie III on the active/non-football illness list.
While this is terrible news for the rookie and his new team, there is good news because Metchie III was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL) – the most curable form of leukemia. He is expected to make a full recovery and should be back on the field at some point.
“I am currently receiving great medical care, am in good spirits and I expect to make a recovery at a later point in time. As a result of this diagnosis, I will likely not be playing football this season. My main focus will be on my health and recovery,” said Metchie III in a statement.
John Metchie III Isn’t the Only Athlete to Battle Cancer
John Metchie III was drafted by the Texans in the second round (44th overall) of the 2022 NFL Draft. In fact, he was also drafted by the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL) – though he decided to pursue his career in the NFL. Unfortunately, that career will have to wait.
When he does return to the field, he’s expected to make a big difference for the Texans. Coming off a productive season at the University of Alabama, Metchie III had 96 catches for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior. He was the ninth receiver selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Being diagnosed with leukemia is far from good news, but Metchie III can take a deep breath knowing his form of leukemia is highly treatable and curable. While we wish him a safe and speedy recovery, let’s take a look at 25 other famous athletes who were forced to battle cancer.
25. Novlene Williams-Mills
Novlene Williams-Mills is a retired Jamaican track and field athlete who specialized in the 400-meter races and 4 x 400-meter relays. She won four silver medals and one gold medal at the World Championships, and three silver medals and one bronze medal at the Olympics. She was diagnosed with breast cancer ahead of the 2012 Olympics and still won a silver medal.
24. Mark Herzlich
Mark Herzlich is a retired linebacker who spent six seasons in the NFL, all of which with the New York Giants, between 2011 and 2016. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2009 and missed the entire 2009 college football season. Of course, he returned the following year and while he went undrafted in 2011, the Giants gave him a shot.
23. Yuvraj Singh
Yuvraj Singh is a retired all-rounder cricketer who represented India in all formats of the game. Among his many accomplishments is winning seven Player of the Series awards in the ODI format. He was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his lung in 2011 and received treatment in the United States before returning to his team in 2012. It was quite the swift comeback.
22. Scott Hamilton
Scott Hamilton is a retired American figure skater who won four consecutive gold medals at the World Championships in men’s singles between 1981 and 1984. To top it off, Hamilton also won a gold medal in men’s singles at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997 and a brain tumor in 2004 – which he received several treatments for.
21. Billy Mayfair
Billy Mayfair is an American golfer who turned professional in 1988 and continues to play on the PGA Tour to this day. He has five pro wins on the tour with his best finish in a major coming at the 2001 The Open Championship – he finished tied for third. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2006, but returned to the links not long after. He was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2019.
20. Nené Hilario
Nené Hilario is a retired center who played 17 seasons in the NBA – during that time, he averaged 11.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game. In 2008, he had a malignant tumor removed in his testicle, causing him to miss half of the season. He responded with a career-best season the following year and continued that success for the next six seasons.
19. Carlos Carrasco
Carlos Carrasco is a starting pitcher who currently plays for the New York Mets. He has spent 13 seasons in the league, accumulating a 99-82 record in 273 games played. He was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2019, but made a return to the diamond just a few months later after receiving treatment. He went on to win the 2019 AL Comeback Player of the Year award.
18. Jessica Breland
Jessica Breland is a professional basketball player who has spent nine seasons in the WNBA, though she’s currently a free agent. She averaged 7.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game in her career. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009 while playing college basketball. She missed the 2009 season, but returned the following year.
17. Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert is a guard-forward who currently plays for the Indiana Pacers. He has spent the past six seasons in the NBA and has averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.3 blocks per game. During a routine MRI after being traded in 2021, LeVert was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a cancer of the kidney. He returned to the court several months later.
16. Trey Mancini
Trey Mancini is an outfielder and designated hitter who currently plays for the Baltimore Orioles. He made his debut with the team in 2016 and had his breakout season in 2017. After three productive seasons, Mancini missed the entire 2020 season after being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer after removing a malignant tumor from his colon a month prior. He returned the following year and continues to be productive at the plate.
15. Shannon Miller
Shannon Miller is a retired American gymnast who represented Team USA at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics – winning two gold medals, two silver medals, and three bronze medals in the process. She also won five gold medals, three silver medals, and one bronze medal at the World Championships. She was diagnosed with germ cell ovarian cancer in 2011, but beat it after several cycles of chemo.
14. Mike Lowell
Mike Lowell is a retired third baseman who played 13 seasons in the MLB, most notably with the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins. He had a .279 batting average with 1,619 hits, 223 home runs, 952 RBIs, and 771 runs scored. Lowell was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1999 and missed nearly two months of play, but eventually recovered and went on to play 11 more seasons in the major leagues.
13. Andres Galarraga
Andres Galarraga is a retired first baseman who played 19 seasons in the MLB between 1985 and 2004. During his career, he recorded a .288 batting average with 2,333 hits, 399 home runs, 1,425 RBIs, and 1,195 runs scored. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999, but returned the following year. His cancer returned in 2004 near the end of his career, be he again recovered and returned to play.
12. Josh Bidwell
Josh Bidwell is a retired punter who played 10 seasons in the NFL – most notably with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had 31,710 career punt yards and a career 42.7 yards per punt. In 1999, not long after being drafted by the Packers, Bidwell was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He later earned the starting punter job ahead of the 2000 season.
11. Eric Davis
Eric Davis is a retired outfielder who played 17 seasons in the MLB between 1984 and 2001 – most notably with the Cincinnati Reds. He had a .269 career batting average with 1,430 hits, 282 home runs, 934 RBIs, 938 runs scored, and 349 stolen bases. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997, but continued to play throughout treatment. He then had one of his best statistical seasons in 1998 before retiring several years later.
10. Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova is a retired Czech-American tennis player who turned professional in 1974 and retired in 2006. During that time, she had a 1,442-219 singles record with 167 singles titles (most in the Open Era) and 18 Grand Slam wins. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, several years after her playing career ended. Still, she attempted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro several months later.
9. Edna Campbell
Edna Campbell is a retired professional basketball player who played seven seasons in the WNBA, most notably with the Sacramento Monarchs. She averaged 7.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, but decided to continue playing through treatment – earning her several awards and recognitions.
8. Saku Koivu
Saku Koivu is a retired Finnish center who played 18 seasons in the NHL – 13 with the Montreal Canadiens and five with the Anaheim Ducks. He finished his career with 255 goals and 577 assists (832 points) in 1,124 games played. He was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma in 2001 and only played three games that season. He returned the following season and had a career year.
7. James Conner
James Conner is an American running back who will be entering his sixth season in the NFL and second with the Arizona Cardinals after four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has recorded 4,392 yards from scrimmage and 44 total touchdowns since entering the league. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 while recovering from a torn MCL during his college football days.
6. Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling is a retired starting pitcher who played 20 seasons in the MLB between 1988 and 2007. During that time, he had a 216-146 record in 569 games played, winning three World Series and being named to six All-Star rosters. In 2014, nearly seven years after his retirement, Schilling was diagnosed with throat cancer as a result of using smokeless tobacco for several decades.
5. Phil Kessel
Phil Kessel is an American right winger who has spent the past 16 seasons in the NHL – he’s currently a free agent. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has scored 399 goals and dished 557 assists (956 points) in 1,204 career games played. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer just a few months after being drafted, but was cancer-free just one week later after surgery.
4. John Cullen
John Cullen is a retired center who played 10 seasons in the NHL, scoring 187 goals and 363 assists (550 points) in 621 career games played. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1997 after an x-ray found a baseball-sized tumor in his chest. He missed the entire 1997-98 season and while he made a brief return the following year, he eventually decided to call it quits.
3. Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong is a former road racing cyclist who is both regarded as a sports icon and major disappointment. Between 1999 and 2005, he won the Tour de France seven times in a row – the streak occurred several years after he was diagnosed with potentially-fatal testicular cancer. This won the hearts of many, but things changed when doping allegations overshadowed his achievements.
2. Jon Lester
Jon Lester is a retired starting pitcher who played 16 seasons in the MLB – most notably with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. He finished his career with a 200-117 record in 452 games played, winning three World Series – two with the Red Sox and one with the Cubs. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2006, but later returned and won the 2007 World Series.
1. Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux is a Hall of Fame center who played 17 seasons in the NHL – all of which with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played in 915 career games, scoring 690 goals and dishing 1,033 assists (1,723 points). He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1993, but continued to play through the treatment – not only playing, but dominating as he continued to set the league on fire.
What’s Next for John Metchie III?
John Metchie III is one of the nearly two million individuals diagnosed with some form of cancer every year. His diagnosis, acute promyelocytic leukemia, occurs in roughly 1 in 250,000 people in the United States and accounts for nearly 10% of all acute myeloid leukemia cases in the US.
While his diagnosis is highly treatable and curable in most cases, the rookie receiver will have to take time away from football – likely missing his entire rookie season. It’s not the ideal scenario for someone with as much promise as Metchie III, but we’ll see him in action soon enough.
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For now, we wish John Metchie III a safe and speedy recovery. We understand how difficult of a time this must be, but he can rest easy knowing he has the entire NFL community behind his back – including teammates, opponents, coaches, front office brass, fans, analysts, and more.
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