The Broncos escaped with a 23-16 win over the Steelers in their divisional playoff matchup Sunday, but for Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas, the game had extra meaning beyond just helping his team advance to the AFC Championship game.
Thomas has been in the league since 2010, but it was the first time that his mom, Katina Smith, was able to watch him play in an NFL game, or any football game at all.
Smith had been in prison for narcotics trafficking since Thomas was 11, and she was just released as one of the 46 nonviolent drug offenders who had their sentences commuted by President Obama in November.
However, after her release, she was not allowed to leave the state of Georgia for 60 days, making Denver’s playoff win against the Steelers the first time she was able to see her son play live.
“It’s very special,” Thomas said. “She came out, got to see us win a game, her first time here, her first time seeing me play. It felt great, a really special feeling.”
After the win, in which Thomas had four catches for 40 yards and a two-point conversion, the three-time pro bowler told reporters that Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning gave Thomas the game ball and told him to give it to his mother.
No word on whether Smith intends to travel to Denver again next week to watch her son take on the Patriots, but the team might want her around, being that they are undefeated when she is in attendance.