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Former Georgia Tech head coach Chan Gailey talks relationship with Demaryius Thomas

Gailey was head coach at Tech when Thomas played football there and has had coaching stops all over the college level and NFL.

ATLANTA — A Georgia community, a university, and an entire nation of football fans are all trying to understand the death of a man they knew as "Bay Bay."

That was the nickname for Demaryius Thomas, the former Georgia Tech football star who went on to enjoy a successful NFL career and retired just last summer.

Authorities said Thomas was found dead in his home in Roswell, Georgia. The former Georgia Tech and Denver Broncos star was just 33 years old.

11Alive's Maria Martin sat down with Chan Gailey, who has had a long coaching career, working at both the collegiate and professional level.

Gailey was head coach at Georgia Tech when Thomas played there. He mentioned the one thing he'll never forget about the football star is his smile.

"He lit up the room whenever he walked in," Gailey said. "He was a great football player but he was a great human being. I just remember how he was an almost bigger than life personality."

Gailey added that while Thomas had all the physical attributes of a great football player, in size and speed, it was his personality that really left a mark. "What he had overcome in his life to become the player he was, it was just amazing," Gailey added.

The former Georgia Tech coach also fondly remembered the first time he and Thomas got to know each other, as Gailey was trying to convince him to play for Tech.

"We went down and had dinner with Aunt Shirley and it was an amazing time while I was getting to know him. It was just heartwarming to see where that young man was in life and what he was looking forward to in his future. It was great for me, I went down there to his hometown, we spent an evening together," Gailey explained.

And when asked what the football star taught Gailey as a coach, the answer was simple; "there's no one way to do it."

"He was his own unique guy. There's no one way to get the job done. He would run a route differently and we would say 'hey, you got to adjust' because every guy is different,'" he said.

Gailey also remarked that it didn't take long to realize the freshman Thomas had something special, saying "he adapted to the surroundings extremely well. He was a freshman but he didn't act like a freshman, but he knew his freshman spot."

The former coach said those who knew Thomas couldn't stay away from him, adding, "he was just one of those guys who was a magnet in the locker-room."

Now, with the news of Thomas' passing Gailey reflected on the football star's legacy, saying "I think what people know about him, is him. He didn't try to be somebody he wasn't, he wasn't trying to be a superhero. He just was. He was a great player and a great man."

Gailey mentioned that the last time he saw Thomas was earlier this year at the Hall of Fame ceremony, when former Broncos player Payton Manning was inducted.

"I was able to spend a few minutes with him," Gailey remarked, noting "it was just like we were back at Georgia Tech."

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