ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —It’s been a great year for Demaryius Thomas.
In the last 12 months, the star receiver signed a 5-year, $70 million deal with the Broncos, saw his mother be released after serving 15 years in prison, and won a Super Bowl.
Today, things got a little bit better.
Minnie Pearl Thomas, Thomas’ 60-year-old grandmother who has been in prison for 16 years, has had her sentenced commuted by President Barack Obama, the white house announced on Wednesday.
Pearl Thomas was one of the 214 commutations issued by the President today. It is the most single commutations issued on a single day in the last 116 years.
She was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison without the opportunity for parole in 2000 for running a cocaine ring in Allentown, Georgia, with her daughter Katrina, Thomas’ mother, whose sentenced was commuted by the President last year.
The news came just after the Broncos had finished their sixth day of training camp and was completely unexpected.
“It was a shock. I was shocked,” Thomas said. “I had to go to my phone and run through it quick to see if it was true.”
Thomas has been fighting for this since it was announced his mother would be released last summer. When the Broncos visited the white house to celebrate their Super Bowl 50 championship Thomas presented President Obama with a letter thanking him for commuting his mother’s sentence, explaining his grandmother’s situation, and asking for similar consideration. Obama already knew.
“I was talking about my mom, I was saying ‘thank you,’” Thomas said, describing his conversation with the President. “The fact that he mentioned my grandmother, I knew something was going gonna happen.”
Pearl Thomas’ sentence won’t officially end until Dec. 1 and Thomas is unsure whether his grandmother will be able to see him play this season, or if she’ll have to go through the same travel restriction his mother did last year.
“I’m sure it’s half-way house to begin with and then we’ll go from there,” Thomas said. “I’m sure they’ll both be here eventually. If not this year, we’ll have to wait till next year and they’ll be here.”
Today’s announcement brings one of the most difficult chapters of Thomas’ life to a close. His grandmother and mother were both sent to prison when Thomas was in the ninth grade. It could have been easy for him to follow them down that path. Instead, he used his natural size and athleticism to become a force on the high school basketball court, and the football field at Georgia Tech.
“When I was playing basketball in high-school, I told myself I wanted to go play football just to stay out of trouble,” Thomas said. “You see people getting in trouble with drugs. I saw what happened to my grandma and mama —not only once, but twice. When I was even younger, they had something happen. And then I was around people that used drugs, so I wanted to put myself in a situation where I wouldn’t be around it, so I wouldn’t get in no trouble. So, one day I stayed out and played football. Ever since then, I’ve tried to stay around the right crowds.”
Thomas’ grandmother is one of the hundreds of non-violent drug offenders whose sentences have been shortened or commuted during the Obama administration.