Getting your family to the Super Bowl on short notice, when your primary focus must be on preparing for the game, is always a challenge for players.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas’ story is a bit beyond. His mom becomes anxious in crowds. But it’s been a very long time since she got to watch him be an athlete.
Thomas’ mother was incarcerated for 16 years after she was convicted on a drug-trafficking charge in Georgia. His grandmother is still in prison for overseeing a cocaine-distribution operation.
Considering his chaotic youth, Thomas is remarkably open and charitable in his recollections. He starred at Georgia Tech before moving up the NFL.
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It’s been so long since his mother got to see him play any sport and he wants so much to share Super Bowl 50 with her.
“Actually it was sixth-grade playing basketball when she (last) saw me play,” Thomas said Thursday.
“It didn’t seem like 16 years; it actually went by quick because she came out here just as fast. You know she kind of got used to everything kind of quick. She flew for the first time. So it wasn’t too bad. She’s been excited about it, and now she’s coming to the Super Bowl.”
Thomas maintained a relationship with his mother and grandmother after their incarceration through phone calls. His mother could have received a reduced sentence by testifying against her mother, but refused. They watched him play in the Super Bowl two years ago on a prison television in Florida.
Thomas was the Broncos’ leading receiver this season, with 1,304 yards and six touchdowns. He’s complemented among Denver receivers by Emmanuel Sanders, who finished with 1,135 yards and six touchdowns.
Like all good receiver pairs, they thrive off each other. Think back to when Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad played for the Carolina Panthers.
One week a defensive coordinator will assign his top cornerback to Thomas. The next week a coordinator will put his best cover guy on Sanders.
They don’t know who will get the No. 1 receiver treatment and they don’t particularly care because they know either way it opens up someone’s game.
Thomas is kind-hearted and laid-back off the field. Sanders is more the Alpha male between them.
“I think it is something that comes within you, saying, ‘I want people to talk about me when they talk about who is the best wide receiver,’ ” Sanders said Thursday.
“And the thing is I am a No. 2 wide receiver, so to speak, over here. We got Demaryius Thomas but still I am out here battling. I am still out here trying to prove that I am one of the best wide receivers.”