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Inside the greatest week of Demaryius Thomas' life

Brandon Krisztal Avatar
July 17, 2015


As a society we’re prone to hyperbole. “Today was the best day ever!” one might often say. Or, “that was the best week ever!!!!” after returning from a great vacation. However, for Denver Broncos Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas, he’ll be hard pressed to ever have a better week, or more specifically a better couple of days than he had this week.

On Wednesday, less than an hour before the July 15 deadline to sign a long-term contract he inked a 5-year $70 Million deal to remain a Bronco. Had he not signed that, he still would’ve made nearly $13 Million this year as the team’s designated franchise player. The crazy thing is, that wasn’t the biggest news of the week for D.T.

Monday morning President Obama commuted the prison sentence of Thomas’ mother Katrina Smith, who along with his grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, had been incarcerated since 2000 on drug trafficking charges.

“The first person that told me was her,” Thomas said at his Friday press conference at Dove Valley. “I woke up this (Monday) morning and saw two missed phone calls from her. And then maybe 10 minutes later she called me again. I knew it was something because she’s never called me early. She told me the news. The first things she said was she’d be out November 10…I look forward to her coming to her first game.”

Credit: BSN Denver
Thomas at Friday’s press conference – Credit: BSN Denver

Smith’s original release date was set for 2017. Thomas doesn’t always show emotion. The only time you can even tell something might be bothering him is when he’s not smiling. For a kid who was raised by extended family and hasn’t lived in the same house with his mother since elementary school, you wouldn’t necessarily know the struggles he’s gone through.

Thomas said he always told his mom he’d go pro in something, but for omost of his life he thought it would be basketball. Of course, football was his calling, but not everyone was convinced when The Broncos selected The 6-3 230-pound Georgia Tech product 22nd overall in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2010 that he’d be a slam-dunk. In a lot of ways his Draft Night was overshadowed by Tim Tebow being selected three spots behind Thomas by Denver at 25. Add to that fellow wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was more heralded coming out of Oklahoma State, was taken two spots after Thomas at 24.

Both receivers will be forever linked. They wear the same jersey number, 88. They, obviously, play the same position, and it a lot of ways play it the same way, making seemingly impossible catches, as well as routinely turning short plays into long gains. Their production is eerily similar, as well. In the last three years, only Bryant’s 43 touchdown grabs are better than Thomas’ 35. However, Thomas has more catches in that span and each year has gained more than 1,400 yards, while Bryant has posted two 1,200 yard seasons sandwiched around a 1,300 yard campaign in 2013. Thomas also has one more Pro Bowl nod, 3-2.

So, it only made sense that both players contract situations would keep the players intertwined once they reached the end of their fifth season. They were both designated with the “Franchise-Tag.” That meant their respective teams retain their rights, but rather than having to sign long-term deals, they would each receive a salary that averaged out the top-5 players at their position. This year that would pay each of them $12.8 Million, but that didn’t guarantee they would have security beyond this season and wouldn’t protect them in the long term if either player suffered any type of devastating injury.

Amidst accusations by both player’s agents and the NFL Players Association that The Cowboys and Broncos were colluding to keep their star receivers contracts low, each player was able to sign long-term deals just under the wire on Wednesday. The news of Bryant’s contract 5-years $70 Million broke, and not surprisingly, Thomas deal came right after, and looked, essentially, identical.

Demaryius Thomas signs
Thomas talking to media at Friday’s press conference – Credit: BSN Denver

While it’s assumed Thomas’ agent Todd France and Bryant’s agent Tom Condon talked, Thomas said he had no contact with Bryant throughout the process. “I’ve actually never talked to Dez Bryant over the phone, maybe at an event or something.”

Thomas, who spent the last few months training in Georgia, did have plenty of contact with his teammates while he was away from the team. “I actually got a lot of support,” he said. “I was on FaceTime calls with Von and couple other guys. I talked to Peyton (Manning) here and there, but it was a lot of support, ‘just get everything done and can’t wait to have you back.’”

Wide Receivers Coach Tyke Tolbert is a holdover from the John Fox regime, and new Head Coach Gary Kubiak said during the Spring that Tolbert had contact with Thomas as well, so that should aid the transition a new offense.

“I had a couple of things I was able to watch,” Thomas said. “I was basically trying to stay in the best shape I possibly could. I was actually working out with guys who played in the offense, DeAndre Thompson and Marlon(Brown) from the Ravens.

When the contract was announced on Wednesday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway said that they were thrilled to get a long-term deal done, but that the expectation for Thomas to continue to produce is even greater now.

“I think you look at the production that D.T. has had in the last three years, I don’t think there’s any question that D.T. is one of the top wide receivers in the league and he’s being compensated that way now.” Elway said. “It’s very well deserved on D.T.’s part. We have high expectations. We think he’s coming right into his prime and we don’t anticipate him backing up at all. The expectations are going to be increased now and we just think that he has all the skills. Plus with the type of person he is, he’s the type of player and guy that we want on the Denver Broncos. We have a tremendous amount of confidence in D.T. and it’s why we’re comfortable paying this kind of money.”

Thomas, who was the team’s other offensive captain along with Manning welcomes the pressure to be productive and lead.“I know I need to be a leader, he said. “I’m a quiet guy and don’t say much, but like old guys like (former CB) Champ (Bailey) and (former S) Brian Dawkins were telling me I need to step up—and (former TE) Shannon Sharpe telling me to step up and be a leader. When I hear that from those guys, it really means something. I need to step up and have the guys listen to me.”

Thomas indicated that he wasn’t too worried about a deal being done, and revealed he thought a deal would get done a week before the deadline.

Thomas was 11 when both his mother and grandmother went to prison. Now, at 27, he can breathe a sigh of relief that his family will be set for the rest of their lives. His mother has never been on a plane. She, obviously, never saw him play in high school, or college.

Later this season, she’ll finally have the chance to see her son play, and in front of fans who love him and will continue to cheer for him for a long time to come. Thomas turns 28 December 25…it’s a safe bet this will be the best Christmas their family has ever had.

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