ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Demaryius Thomas left the Broncos' weight room Wednesday to discover some welcome news.
A Broncos public relations staffer saw Thomas heading back from his lift and gave him update that "was a shock" to the three-time Pro Bowler.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he commuted the sentences of 214 non-violent drug offenders. Thomas' grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, is among those who will receive a second chance at life.
"[I was] blindsided today," Thomas said. "I just knew it was coming out before he got out of the White House. I still remember talking to him and telling me what I had to do to get them situated. This was a blindside shot, but I'm happy. I'm excited. The past two years, I got my grandmother and my mother out. And a lot of other people got their family members out that didn't do crazy crimes, so it's a blessing."
The announcement comes a year after Thomas' mother, Katina Stuckey Smith, had her sentence commuted in July 2015.
Thomas' 60-year-old grandmother spent 16 years in federal prison on drug charges. For part of the sentence in Tallahassee, Florida, Smith and Minnie Pearl Thomas lived in the same cell. When Smith left prison last year, her absence had a noticeable impact on Minnie Pearl Thomas' well-being.
"She was sad when mom left," Thomas said. "She used to cry when she was in there by herself. I'm just excited for her, and I want to thank Obama for what all he's done for her and everybody else."
The commutation follows Thomas' conversation with Obama at the White House when the Broncos visited in June to honor their Super Bowl 50 victory. Thomas spent a few moments talking with the president and also passed along a handwritten thank-you note. During that brief conversation, Thomas got the feeling that his grandmother would receive the same treatment as his mother.
"I was talking about my momma," Thomas said. "I was saying thank you. The fact that he mentioned my grandmother, I knew something was gonna happen."
Thomas said on Wednesday he believed his grandmother would follow the same progression as his mother, who is now employed in Thomas' home state of Georgia.
Smith, who was commuted in July 2015 when Obama commuted the sentences of 46 non-violent, drug-related offenders, spent time in a halfway house before she was released in November 2015. She then faced an additional 60 days of travel restrictions, but made the trip to Denver in January 2016 to see the Broncos defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 23-16 victory was the first of Thomas' games that Smith attended in person. At some point, Thomas expects his grandmother to make the same sort of trip.
"She will," Thomas said. "They both will be here eventually. I ain't gonna be done this year. So if it has to wait till next year, she'll be here."
Thomas hadn't yet gotten hold of his mother when he talked to the media on Wednesday, but he said he thinks her experience will help his grandmother. He won't have to worry about her adjustment, as Smith can serve as a resource. That makes "everything better – sweeter," he said. Instead, Thomas can focus on football, which he views as the means to prevent his family from such hardship in the future.
"I think that's why I work so hard at what I do," Thomas said, "to be able to play as long as I can: to help my family out so I won't have to go back and be in the situation that we was back then."