JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Demaryius Thomas will wait, as always, for his mother’s call before Super Bowl XLVIII. That’s the routine every game for the Denver Broncos wide receiver.
He can’t call her. Inmates aren’t allowed to take calls.
Thomas’ mom, Katrina Smith, still has three years left on her sentence for a drug conviction. Grandmother Minnie Pearl Thomas is also incarcerated under the same charge.
“It’s kind of tough right now,” Thomas said in the buildup to the biggest game of his life. “I think about them all the time. I wish they were here with me. I get emotional.”
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Being in the Super Bowl spotlight makes it impossible to hide any of life’s details — good or bad — and Thomas admitted it hasn’t been easy having to deal with the attention, especially coming from Montrose, Ga., population of about 200. There are lessons to be learned, though, from having two family members in jail.
“One day you can be here and the next day you’ll be gone,” Thomas said. “So I take every day like it’s my last. I play every football game like it’s my last.”
The last message from mom came earlier this week: “I told you you were going to make it.”
That he has.
Thomas, 6 feet 3, 229 pounds, has been Peyton Manning’s leading receiver the past two seasons in Denver, averaging 93 catches, 1,432 yards and 12 touchdowns. Looking at the production, one might never guess he came from a run-heavy, triple-option offense at Georgia Tech.
“Just watching him mature as a football player and as a person has been tremendous,” said fellow receiver Eric Decker. “The guy has so much talent. I really think he is one of the best receivers talent-wise in the NFL. It is fun to see him keep progressing every year.”
Praise doesn’t stop there.
“He’s made big play after big play for us this year and he’ll continue to do so,” said tight end Julius Thomas (no relation).
Receiver Wes Welker touted the guy they call “DT” as having the best hands on the team: “He wears like triple-X gloves, so he’s got huge hands.”
Coach John Fox has been most impressed with Thomas’ commitment to developing his skills. But size, speed and all the other measurables help, too.
“He is very, very gifted, no doubt,” Fox said. “He is one of the better athletes I’ve been blessed to be around.”
Offensive linemen don’t often get a lot of love, but guard Louis Vasquez and center Manny Ramirez know they will be cheered on by more than just Broncos fans Sunday.
The former teammates at Texas Tech are of Mexican-American heritage and have felt support from that community this week.
“I actually spoke with Manny about it, and it can be overwhelming, but we’re taking it for what it is,” said Vasquez. “It’s awesome to know that we have such a large group, especially the youth out there watching us. Hopefully it opens their eyes to say anything is possible, no matter what it is.”
• Former New York Giants’ defensive end Michael Strahan was one of the inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Broncos coach John Fox was told this week that former NFL legend Warren Sapp was advocating against Strahan’s candidacy.
“First of all, I think it’s a shame that’s going on, but I believe Michael does deserve it,” said Fox, who was Strahan’s defensive coordinator in New York from 1997 to 2001. “I believe he deserved it a year ago. … He was a great leader. He won a Super Bowl. I think he exemplified what our league is about in a very positive light, both on and off the field.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers