Demaryius Thomas' Broncos career a quintessential story of success through struggle


Well-known member
Mar 18, 2019

For almost two decades, Thomas did his best to deal with the painful separation, staying in contact with his mother and grandmother as he grew from an adolescent to an NFL star through phone calls.

His life and the lives of his family members would change in 2015 when his mother, Katina Smith, was one of 46 people who had their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama. A year later, Thomas' grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, received clemency as well.

After the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, Thomas had the chance to personally thank Obama at the White House, which was obviously a very special moment. Thomas recalled that Obama remembered the situation when they met.

"I've been able to get my mom and grandma out of prison — I don't know if football did it, but winning the Super Bowl and meeting Obama after that situation, they both kind of got out, which I was thankful for," Thomas said. "But football has done a lot; [I've] been able to take care of myself and a lot of people and a lot of other people."

One thing that never changed about Thomasin Denver, though, was that he always made time for children. He made a habit of visiting kids at the Boys & Girls Club, making friendships that he long maintained. Quick to smile, Thomas never tired of sharing that gift with children who may be experiencing tough times.

"Hopefully I ain't gone from Denver for long, but my impact when I was there was just trying to give back when I could," Thomas said. "I didn't know all the directions of where to go because I didn't have my mom and dad around at all times or the leadership to go in what direction, but it was just trying to give back and be around kids to show them whatever to put a smile on their face because they put smiles on my face and I know they're our next generation."

Sometimes his connections in the community became the strongest ones he made. In the case of the Durkee family, who suffered the devastating loss of 11-year-old son Drake in a 2015 rafting accident, Thomas learned that Drake had been a huge fan of his. Drake had even been buried in a Demaryius Thomas jersey, Thomas was told.

Thomas sent a letter to the family expressing his grief, invited them to his annual youth football camp that summer, when he started an award in Drake's honor. That season, as the Broncos marched to Super Bowl 50, Thomas wore a "Drake 88" wristband in his honor, including at the championship game. He still speaks with the family, he says, and recently talked with Drake's dad.

"They're like part of my family now," Thomas said.

Whether in a Broncos uniform or out of one, Thomas' heart was evident throughout the entirety of his career. We could watch as Thomas grew, as his life was transformed and as he transformed the lives of others.

Through the ups and downs — playoff wins and painful injuries, stunning touchdowns and sporadic drops — he could remind us that this was still an essentially human experience, an open display of someone working through their struggles to touch greatness.

Sometimes it seems like we want our sports heroes to be only Superman, no Clark Kent — but we must remember being superhuman still means you are human. While Thomas almost always made his orange and blue uniform look like a red cape, once in a while we could see where he wore his glasses. And that's what made his triumphs so gratifying to watch.