Smith, 41, is scheduled to be released in June 2017. Minnie Thomas, who had two prior convictions for selling drugs, received a life sentence. Neither has ever seen Demaryius play a football game in person — not in Pop Warner, not in high school and not with the Denver Broncos, for whom he has become a star receiver and two-time Pro Bowler.
"That drives me more, to know that they’re in there and they’re watching me," Thomas said Monday. "I try to go out and play my best, because I know they’re going to talk about it to all the people in the jailhouse."
Thomas speaks by phone to his mother and grandmother after every game, and it was no different after the Broncos’ 26-16 victory in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Thomas caught a touchdown pass in the win — his second of the playoffs.
Smith was boastful, telling Thomas how confident she had been in him. Minnie Thomas, like always, was the emotional one.
"It was just happy," Thomas said.
Thomas was 12 years old when his mother and grandmother were convicted. He said they have still been able to keep a close eye on his career.
"They get to watch every game," Thomas added. "They’ve got the T-shirts. All of the ladies have the T-shirts and watch me, so that’s special."
His mother and grandmother will be watching the Super Bowl from the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, a minimum-security women’s facility.