ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) _ Demaryius Thomas hit the jackpot this week _ 48 hours BEFORE signing his $70 million contract.
The Denver Broncos star receiver awoke Monday morning to see he’d missed two calls from the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Florida.
He jumped out of bed.
His heart and mind both raced.
Suddenly, footballs and fortunes were no match for faith and family.
Could this really be happening?
“I knew it was something because I’ve never seen her call me that early,” Thomas said Friday.
His stared at his phone, awaiting another call.
Ten minutes crept by before his phone buzzed again.
Katina Smith, who’s been jailed since 1999 after she and her mother were busted on drug trafficking charges in Georgia, had great news: President Barack Obama was commuting her sentence.
Instead of getting out of prison in 2017, she’ll be released to a halfway house in Macon, Georgia, by the end of this month.
And sometime this season, she’ll get to see her son play football for the first time in her life.
“She’ll probably be nervous,” Thomas said. “She’s never flown.”
She’ll even get to wear one of her son’s orange No. 88 jerseys. An authentic one this time _ not like the ones she and her mother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, who’s serving a life sentence in the same minimum-security prison in Florida, had to craft with strips of tape on their prison-issued garb as they gathered around the TV set to watch Broncos games.
Smith was one of 46 non-violent drug offenders whose sentences were cut by the president this week.
“It was a blessing,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he spoke again with his mother after signing his big deal that includes $43.5 million guaranteed and is the largest in franchise history and “she’s still happy she’s about to get out, she’s not worried about the contract.”
Neither, it seems, is Thomas.
Thomas said his mother’s big news made his big payday secondary. After all, he said he was prepared to play this season on the $12.823 million franchise tag if the sides didn’t reach a long-term deal by the deadline Wednesday.
“I was like, whatever’s going to happen, I’m still going to be playing here no matter what and if it had to go down to franchise, I would be in the same situation next year, trying to get the deal done,” he said.
Although Thomas skipped the Broncos’ offseason program, he said he would have shown up for the start of training camp July 30 even without a long-term deal. He didn’t want to miss any games or get off to a slow start like he did last year after missing the start of camp following the death of his fraternal grandmother.
With financial security and his mother’s pending freedom, Thomas can focus on adjusting to new coach Gary Kubiak’s offense now.
“I want to lead the league in yards and touchdowns, basically about everything a receiver can do,” he said. “But yeah, I kind of want to break the NFL record in yards.”
That’s Calvin Johnson’s mark of 1,964 yards receiving set in 2012, something Thomas said is realistic even in Kubiak’s run-oriented, two-tight end offense.
“There are big plays to be made,” he said, figuring anything is possible after a week like this.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton