Demaryius Thomas respects the prestige and importance of the Super Bowl as much as the next man. He’s just a bit perplexed about all the talk of how much pressure the game brings with it.
Pressure to Thomas is being born to a 16-year-old mother and being forced to live without the benefit of either parent before even becoming a teenager. Pressure to the two-time Pro Bowl receiver is waking in the dark of night to find gun-wielding officers raiding your home and hauling both your mother and grandmother off to jail as the masterminds behind a drug enterprise so massive in scope it would land both of them behind bars for at least two decades each.
And so, with all due respect to the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Michael Bennett, when Demaryius Thomas looks you in the eyes and flat out tells you he won’t be spooked come Sunday afternoon when he takes the field at MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XVLIII, you’re not only inclined, but almost feel obligated to take him at his word.
To this day, mom Katina Smith and grandma Minnie Pearl Thomas remain locked away in a Florida federal prison on drug convictions. They’ve been there since 2000, long enough to pull rank to the point of being able to share a cell together. The earliest his mom can be released is 2017 and, depending on who you ask or believe, his grandma could be a lifer.
And yet, it’s their downward spiral that perhaps most accounts for where the 6-foot-3, 229 pound Thomas now finds himself.
“I really didn’t put myself around the wrong crowds,” Thomas reflected in a 2010 Denver Post interview delving into his youth and how he came to be largely raised by an aunt and uncle. “The only way you get in trouble around here is if you’re dealing with drugs, because there’s not much here in the country you can do besides drugs. There were a lot of people around here you could hang with that did drugs, so you had to pick the right crew.”
In the process of finding himself, Demaryius Thomas also had to learn to channel all his heartache. To now say he’s largely proved successful would be akin to saying he and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning have connected on a pass or two over the last two seasons.
Thomas caught a team-high 92 passes for the Broncos this season, amassing 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. But the number of times he went face-to-face with a defender the likes of Sherman he concedes he can count on one hand.
Somewhere across the globe, Katina Smith, Minnie Pearl Thomas, and about 50 or so of their closes friends, many of them wearing Thomas’ No. 88 jersey, will gather in the common room to collectively lend their kindred support.
Just knowing that his mother and grandmother will be watching and that he’ll be receiving his customary pre-game call from them empowers Thomas even more and further inspires him, he told ESPN this week, “to try to go out and play my best because I always know they can talk about it to their friends in the jailhouse.”
Mother and son long ago made peace with one another, with her admitting “I know it had to be hard on him. He’s the one who holds everything inside.”
But it’s also what taught Demaryius Thomas how to let it all go when he takes the field. Super Bowl Sunday at MetLife will be no different.