No. 1 fan:
Demaryius Thomas hopes his mother can come to the game.»
Taped on the inside of Demaryius Thomas’ locker at the Broncos’ practice facility is a grainy image of a woman he went years without seeing.
Since February 2000, his mother, Katina Stuckey Smith, 43, had been incarcerated for her role in a cocaine ring that she ran in Georgia with Thomas’ grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas.
Originally given a sentence of more than 24 years, Smith’s term was reduced to 20 in 2008 before it was commuted by President Barack Obama last July. Smith was among 46 drug offenders whose sentences, Obama said, did not fit the crime.
Smith was released from a halfway house in Georgia on Nov. 9, but she was not completely free. Per the terms of her probation, she would be on a 60-day travel restriction, forbidding her from leaving Georgia to see her son play in the regular season, as he had originally hoped upon learning of her early prison release.
But the Broncos’ last two victories, which sealed their postseason fate and gave them a bye week before the divisional playoffs, meant Thomas’ mother might still be able to see her son play.
With her travel restriction now lifted, that time could come Sunday, when the Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC divisional playoff game.
“That’s what we’re working on,” Thomas said Wednesday. “Hopefully. That’s the goal.”
Thomas was only 12 when his mother and grandmother were convicted. They never saw him play at West Laurens High School in Dexter, Ga. They never saw him play at Georgia Tech. They have never seen him play in the NFL as a star receiver for the Broncos.
But they were his most ardent supporters from the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Fla.
Since last year, just days before he signed a five-year, $70 million contract to remain with the Broncos, Thomas had set his sights on the moment when he could look up and see his mother in the stands at Sports Authority Field, and when he could embrace her immediately after a game.
“It’d mean a lot,” he said. “It’d be her first game. I know she’d be excited. It’d mean a lot for her to see my first game live.”