D.T.’S MOM TO AT­TEND Woody Paige:

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - Woody Paige: woody@woody­paige.com or twit­ter.com/woody­paige

Wide­out De­mary­ius Thomas fi­nally gets to play with his mother watch­ing in the sta­dium.

When De­mary­ius Thomas catches a Bron­cos post­sea­son record 50th pass Sun­day, he will hear only one voice among the 76,125. The scream will be louder and more mean­ing­ful than the rest, and that grand, glo­ri­ous mo­ment will be frozen in per­pe­tu­ity.

De­mary­ius’ true No. 1 in the No. 88 or­ange jersey will be watch­ing D.T. play foot­ball in per­son for the first time in her, and his, life. She is his mom.

For more than eight sea­sons, Katina Stuckey Smith, who gave birth to her only son, De­mary­ius Ant­won Thomas, on Christ­mas Day in 1987 when she was 15, was forced to watch his col­lege and pro­fes­sional foot­ball games on TV.

From fed­eral prison in Tal­la­has­see, Fla., where she was in­car­cer­ated.

On game days she would fash­ion two 8s from duct tape and ap­ply them to the back of her T-shirt. Then Katina would yell when­ever De­mary­ius caught a pass, and she would dream that some fu­ture game day she would fi­nally be free to see him play from a seat in the sta­dium.

That game day has ar­rived. Bron­cos vs. Steel­ers. Bron­cos loy­al­ists will be united in or­ange. Thomas and his mother will be re­united in Den­ver.

When the Bron­cos de­feated the San Diego Charg­ers to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC, Thomas be­came the first re­ceiver in Bron­cos his­tory with 25 100-yard games. The first of his five re­cep­tions for 117 yards was a 74-yard touch­down catc­hand-run. The last play­off game against Pitts­burgh four years ago, De­mary­ius had the game-win­ning, 80-yard catch-and-run touch­down on the first play of over­time.

Af­ter the vic­tory over San Diego, as De­mary­ius cel­e­brated with fam­ily and friends, he an­nounced that his mom would be com­ing for the play­off game. She was taken away in hand­cuffs by po­lice from their home in Mon­trose, Ga., when “Bay Bay” (from “baby’’) was 11. Katina and her mother, Min­nie Pearl Thomas, were charged and con­victed of traf­fick­ing in drugs. If Katina, who was ac­cused of be­ing the banker, had pleaded guilty and tes­ti­fied against her mother, she would have been out in two to four years. But she chose not guilty and was sen­tenced in 2000 to 20 years prison with her mother.

In July of last year, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama com­muted the sen­tences of 46 fed­eral pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing Katina. She was taken to a half­way house and re­leased, fi­nally on Nov. 10 — with the pro­vi­sion that she couldn’t travel for 60 days.

With the bye, Sun­day be­came the per­fect time. But Katina’s first trip to Den­ver was ini­tially held up be­cause she is not per­mit­ted to be in a drug en­vi­ron­ment, and Colorado has le­gal­ized mar­i­juana. But her pa­role of­fi­cer al­lowed her to come, and she was sched­uled to ar­rive Satur­day. De­mary­ius had been coy be­cause he didn’t want an avalanche of me­dia at­ten­tion on his mom, or a dis­trac­tion from his prepa­ra­tion for the Steel­ers. But friends and fam­ily knew, and in­formed me sev­eral days ago.

Last sum­mer Thomas signed a $70 mil­lion con­tract, with more than $40 mil­lion guar­an­teed. He will be ar­rang­ing for his mom to move into a new home in Ge­or­gia when the sea­son ends — af­ter, he hopes, the Bron­cos play in the Su­per Bowl.

When Katina and her mother were gone, De­mary­ius was shuf­fled to four places. One af­ter­noon he went home with a cousin. “De­mary­ius asked if he could spend the night, and he stayed for 11 years. My wife Shirley and I treated him like our own son,’’ his un­cle, James Lee Brown, told me sev­eral days ago. Rev. Brown, a pas­tor at two ru­ral churches and a re­tired line­man for the Ge­or­gia Power util­ity com­pany, bap­tized De­mary­ius and told him he wanted the young bas­ket­ball player to go to Ge­or­gia Tech. “A lot of ex­ec­u­tives I worked for grad­u­ated from Tech, and I wanted De­mary­ius to ma­jor in en­gi­neer­ing there.’’

He be­came an all-state foot­ball player and an All-Amer­ica re­ceiver, not en­gi­neer, at Ge­or­gia Tech.

Katina wasn’t around as De­mary­ius be­come a out­stand­ing young man, stu­dent (3.75 GPA) and ath­lete. She couldn’t hug him when De­mary­ius be­came the 22nd pick, and the first wide re­ceiver se­lected, in the 2010 draft by the Bron­cos. She couldn’t be with De­mary­ius when he set a Su­per Bowl record with 13 re­cep­tions — for 118 yards and a touch­down. And she wasn’t able to be at any of the games dur­ing the four con­sec­u­tive years when he has sur­passed 1,000 yards. But she will be front and cen­ter, and prob­a­bly a bit star­tled and over­whelmed, when the Bron­cos try to start their grand ad­ven­ture.

It would be ap­pro­pri­ate if Pey­ton Man­ning con­nects with De­mary­ius to score an­other play­off game-win­ning touch­down against the Steel­ers.

Thomas won’t re­turn the foot­ball to Pey­ton. De­mary­ius will present Katina the spe­cial ball and an even more spe­cial hug.

Mom will be with her son again, and they will be free at last.

WOODY PAIGE Den­ver Post Colum­nist

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