Overcoming Adversity: Demaryius Thomas, a Diamond In The Rough.
Demaryius Thomas was born on December 25th, 1987 to Bobby Thomas and Katrina Smith. Bobby Thomas and Katina Smith were teenagers when they met in 1985, and Katina was 15 years old when Demaryius was born. The two never married but shared a good relationship over the years with joint custody of Demaryius.
Bobby enlisted in the Army immediately after graduation from high school, and he was stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama when Smith became pregnant.
Demaryius Thomas and his two younger sisters were still sleeping when police officers busted through the doors of the Georgia home on March 15, 1999.
The officers were shouting, ordering his mother and stepfather out of bed. Smith was panicked, but she asked the officers if she could at least get her children ready for school like normal before they took her to jail. She helped the children get dressed, fed them breakfast, packed their backpacks and went outside to wait with them for the bus.
"I hugged them and said, 'I'll see you when I get back,' and told them, 'I love you,' " Smith said, dropping her head. "But I never came back."
On that same fateful day, Thomas' grandmother, Minnie pearl Thomas was also arrested. Both women were charged in federal court with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base.
In 1986, Minnie Pearl Thomas sold drugs for the first time, marijuana. In that same year she was also caught for the first time. Even though she spent a short amount of time in jail, she continued to sell drugs; having been addicted to the extra money that it provided her family.
She was arrested again in 1991 but resumed her business after she was released at the end of a 14-month sentence in a jail near Milledgeville, Georgia.
"I mostly did it to make ends meet, to buy my kids what they wanted, so they could wear what the other kids were wearing, so I could keep my house nice on the inside," Minnie Thomas said.
Demaryius Thomas was old enough to know what was going on in the household. According to a recent interview with the Denver Post, he remembered seeing his grandmother making the crack and the large crowd of strangers coming and going, leaving behind their makeshift crack pipes.
"I knew my grandma was selling it and my mom was keeping some money," Thomas said. "I told my mother one time that they needed to stop because I had a dream that they got in trouble. I started crying like every night after then. And then it finally happened."
Smith was offered a plea deal that included a reduced sentence, all Smith had to do was testify against her mother. Smith then refused the offer from the prosecutors.
"It hurt me when I found out she wouldn't tell on me," Minnie Thomas said. "I think of her kids and how they're being raised. It's not that they don't have good lives, but they would have been better with their mother. I beat up myself about that all the time."
Demaryius Thomas was 12 years old in February of 2000. It was during that time that both women were convicted.
Smith was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. Because Minnie Thomas had two prior drug convictions, she was given two life sentences, with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
"I just remember hearing what they got, how many years, and I knew it was going to be a long time without seeing my mother," Demaryius said.
After his mother was sentenced to prison, Thomas needed a place to live. He stayed briefly with his father's mother, but that home was crowded with other children. Then he went to live with his father's younger sister, but that home wasn't completely drug-free, and she wouldn't let Thomas play sports.
"I didn't want to be around drugs because I saw what could happen," Thomas said.
In the end, Thomas found a home with his Uncle James and Aunt Shirley Brown. His Uncle James was a preacher at the local baptist church.
Living with the browns gave Thomas the stability that he so desperately needed.
Living with the Browns meant chores and a non-negotiable 11:30 p.m. curfew. Thomas was baptized and became an usher at the church where James Brown preached. On summer mornings, Brown woke Thomas from bed before sunrise and put him to work in the field behind their house, mowing grass and picking peas. They would take the peas to town to sell, or Thomas and his cousins would shell them by the bucket load for Shirley to cook.
For many years Thomas never spoke to his Aunt ans Uncle about his mother. He told no one of the heartache that he was going through, acting almost as if nothing had happened. He never told anyone that on many nights, he would cry himself to sleep.
"Every night," Thomas said. "I missed her."
Thomas finally came to terms with his grandmother and mother's crime in 2006, when he was a senior in high school.
"I never want to go to jail," Thomas said. "Never, ever."
Every NFL team he met with during the combine in February and in the months leading up to the draft asked him about his mother and grandmother.
Thomas was proud when he answered their questions. He had avoided all sorts of trouble. He had never tried drugs, never was suspended from school, and he was never arrested.
"I really didn't put myself around the wrong crowds," Thomas said. "The only way you get in trouble around here is if you're dealing with drugs, because there's not much here in the country you can do besides drugs. You don't see kids with firearms or anything like that, just mostly drugs. There were a lot of people around here you could hang with that did drugs, so you had to pick the right crew."
Although Demaryius Thomas has been through all of this, he still considers family important. He has a tattoo that has the word "Family" on the inside of his right biceps and "First" on the inside of the left.
There is no denying that Demaryius Thomas has been through so much adversity in his life, but he has overcome it all with a big smile on his face.
"In getting to know him the way that we did and spending time with him, we understood he had a number of things in his life that he had to overcome," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "He didn't let those things and those conditions affect the type of person he became. He made the right decisions and ended up in the right place and created a bright future for himself. We're very fortunate to have him, and we think he's going to have a bright career."
His next challenge, becoming the great NFL WR that the Denver Broncos believed him to be when the drafted him 22nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.
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