Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas motivated by jailed relatives
Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Behind the steel bars of a Tallahassee, Fla., jail, one female inmate has taken some tape and used it design the number ‘88’ on her prison wardrobe in honour of Broncos wideout Demaryius Thomas.
Katina Smith may not know much about all the pre-Super Bowl hype concerning this Sunday’s matchup between Thomas and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. And not that she probably cares much one way or the other about the yappy Sherman.
The only concern for Smith, and for Minnie Pearl Thomas, her fellow inmate, is seeing Demaryius enjoy potentially the best day of his young life.
And why wouldn’t they? After all, Demaryius says these two ladies — who just happen to be his mother and grandmother — are inspiring him to be the best he can be for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium.
There is no reason for Thomas to fret over the type of in-your-face coverage Sherman has in store whenever he lines up against him. Not when Thomas is being fueled by the news that mom and grandma will be able to see him play on TV this weekend.
“They drive me more to know that they’re there and they’re watching me,” Thomas said on Wednesday in an interview on the swaying Cornucopia Majesty cruise liner, where the Broncos are holding their media availability this week. “I try to go out there and play my best because they’re going to talk about it to the people in the jailhouse.
“It’s my mom who calls me before and after the game.”
Katina Smith and Minnie Pearl Thomas have been incarcerated inside the Federal Correctional Institution at Tallahassee, a minimum-security women’s facility, since 2000 after both were convicted of charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine. As such, neither has ever seen him play live.
Smith is serving a 20-year sentence, Minnie Pearl a life sentence. Demaryius was only 11 when the two were arrested and he subsequently moved in with his uncle and aunt in Montrose, Ga., because his dad was serving in the army, which included stints in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Through it all, Smith has repeatedly told her son to learn from her mistakes. Do not take the same path as we did, she warns him.
He has heeded the advice well. Indeed, the path Demaryius has chosen is one that has led him directly to the Super Bowl after a season in which he led all NFL receivers with 14 touchdowns.
And, in the process, it hhas put him on a collision course with Sherman, who earlier this week referred to Thomas as a top-five wide receiver in the NFL.
“I’m not going to say: ‘Shut him up,’ but I’m going to go out and try to make some plays so I don’t have anybody coming up to me saying I got shut down by Sherman,” Thomas said.
“I do feel like he’s the best in the game. Watching film on him, he’s in the right spot at all times. He knows what’s going on on the field. He knows leverage and all this other stuff. I am going to have to figure out something (against him).
“It’s going to be a battle between both teams because we are both physical. They call themselves ‘The Legion of Boom’ for a reason. They are very physical. Everybody hits and makes tackles. Everybody plays aggressively. Our guys have to go out and do what they have to do, hit them back, play aggressively and try and get up the field. Basically, it’s who can execute better. Who can beat their man at the line of scrimmage or down the field. Making plays before you get the ball in your hands.”
Prior to kickoff, Thomas hopes to talk with his mom on the phone. It is a pre-game ritual the two take part in prior to every game. Then, once the final gun has sounded, he hopes to touch base with her again.
In a perfect world, a gleeful Thomas will be a Super Bowl champion by that time.
Then again, in a perfect world, Katina Smith and Minnie Pearl Thomas would be in the stands, not behind bars.
REFS WILL BE A NON-ISSUE
When it comes to covering opposing receivers, the Seattle Seahawks secondary adheres to a “hands-on” policy.
Whether it be hand checks off the line of scrimmage or physical play down the field, the Seahawks in-your-face style is the type of formula that can frustrate other teams, especially when the officials are reluctant to throw flags or toot their whistles.
But whining about the referees is not something the Denver Broncos talented receiving corps has in its game plan. Instead, they will deal with whatever is — or isn’t — called.
“If they go out and hold or we go out and have pass interference, it’s even-even,” Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas said on Wednesday. “The referee is going to call it either way.
“They are aggressive, but I don’t know if it will mess up their game. They made it this far and they only lost three games this year. It really didn’t bother them.
“I think the game will be fine. I don’t think the referees make the decisions about the game. It’s going to be about the players and just going out and making plays.”
Going up against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks No. 1-ranked defence is going to pose significant problems for a Broncos receiving corps led by Demaryius Thomas.
But they are confident, to a man, that they are up to it.
Heading into Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Thomas sat down with the Toronto Sun to break down Denver’s cache of wideouts.
Fastest: Trindon Holliday — “He’s more of a kick returner but he’s got speed to burn. And when he’s out there with us and catches the ball, he can break one at any time. You just have to get the ball in his hands.”
Best Route Runner: Eric Decker and Wes Welker — “It’s tough to pick between them. Both guys are so precise. If Peyton (Manning) expects them to be at a certain spot when he releases the ball, that’s where they will be.”
Most Swagger: Andre Caldwell — “He brings an air of confidence to our group that we feed off of.”
Best Hands: Demaryius Thomas — “I have to pick myself. I feel that if I can get to it, I can catch it. What more can I say?”