Demaryius Thomas could win 10 Super Bowls and they would still pale in comparison to what he achieved personally during last Sunday’s 23-16 AFC Divisional playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Katrina Stuckey Smith, D.T.'s mother, watched Thomas play in-person for the first time ever. Smith was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2000 for slinging crack. She's spent her son's entire professional career rooting him on from federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida.
Thomas only had a modest four catches for 40 yards in the game, but mom will get a chance to see him on an even bigger stage against the defending Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots in the AFC title game this weekend. He was just elated to finally have his mom where she belonged.
"It's very special," Thomas said after the game, according to ESPN. "She came out, got to see us win a game, her first time here, her first time seeing me play. It felt great, a really special feeling."
In July, Smith became one of 46 federal prisoners to have their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama. She was released to a halfway house on Nov. 10, but couldn't travel for 60 days.
After some haggling and slicing through red tape, the Broncos first-round bye enabled Katrina’s first trip to Denver last weekend.
The NFL is littered with stories of young boys with absentee fathers who were raised by their moms. It is rare, however, that a young man grows up without his mother’s voice as the soundtrack of his teenage life.
Unfortunately for Thomas, while he was blazing a trail that would bring him stardom and fame and the loud cheers of the crowd, his mom was living in a silent hell, doing a hard 15 years in the pen.
Thomas was a mama’s boy. His mother was just 16 when she had him. In fact, that’s what they called him in school -- “Mama’s Boy.”
Once his dad bounced to Saudi Arabia for military training, his mom dropped out of high school. Thomas and his mom shared a bed together in a single-wide trailer and lived out in the barren boondocks of central Georgia, in a field of pines located 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store. They had very little money and no means of transportation.
When Thomas was 11, police raided the house where his family lived one morning, as the school bus waited outside to pick him up. His mother and grandmother were arrested and convicted of crack distribution.
With his major caretakers locked behind the steel gates, Thomas grew up with his aunt and uncle. He wasn’t the best behaved kid, as he understandably struggled with his emotions at first.
"For as long back as I can remember, she was pretty much the only person I felt like I knew," Thomas told ESPN in a 2014 spread about his attempts to reunite his estranged family."Nobody was closer to their mom than me."
Luckily his new guardians provided an atmosphere that fostered success and supported his athletics, which served as therapy. Thomas became a three-sport star at West Laurens High School in Dexter, GA, and eventually went on to star at Georgia Tech.
Thomas was drafted by the Denver Broncos 22nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. By 2012 he was a Pro Bowler and newly acquired Peyton Manning’s main offensive weapon.
All of the success in the world, however, couldn’t replace the emptiness Thomas felt. That’s why last Sunday’s game was inspirational for the entire Broncos squad, beyond the fact that they sit just one game away from the Super Bowl. After the win, Peyton Manning gave Thomas the game ball to present to his mom.
Now that she is back home and his life is complete, Thomas is intent on treating his mother’s 15 years in prison like a dropped pass. They will forget about it and move on to the next play -- together.