Surprising Freedom for Demaryius Thomas's Cocaine-Convicted Grandma

Update: In January, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas's mom, Katina Smith, got her first-ever opportunity to see her son play pro football in person thanks to the commutation of her prison sentence by President Barack Obama; see our previous coverage below.

Smith was originally convicted for her participation in a cocaine ring headed up by Minnie Pearl Thomas — her mother, and Demaryius's grandmother.

Now, Obama has commuted the sentence of Thomas's grandma, too, along with that of 213 others.

Here's Thomas's tweet upon hearing the news.

At Broncos training camp, Thomas expressed happiness and surprise at the development. In a video on view below, he says, "This was a blindside. I'm shocked."

He should be.

In recent years, Obama has made it a focus of his prison-reform methods to commute the sentences of prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes. But Smith was due for release in 2017, while Thomas had been sentenced in 2000 to life in prison — and she wasn't supposed to get a chance at parole for decades.

Now, the family will finally have a chance to get together again, without anyone having to be locked up at visit's end.

Here's the video of Thomas's reaction to the news of his grandmother's sentence commutation, followed by our previous coverage.

Original post, 6:54 a.m. January 14: On Sunday, your Denver Broncos will be playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in a huge playoff game for everyone concerned, including standout wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

But the contest will be even bigger for Thomas if another possibility falls into place.

That's because it appears his mom, Katina Smith, will be in attendance — and if so, it will mark the first time she'll have ever gotten to see him play in person.

Why? Because until recently, she's been in prison in Florida on charges related to a cocaine ring run by Minnie Pearl Thomas — her mom and Demaryius's grandmother.

Smith was originally due to be released in mid-2017.

But last year, President Barack Obama commuted her sentence and that of 45 other non-violent drug offenders as part of his efforts to reform the prison system. She's been in a Georgia halfway house for the past few months and has finally earned the right to travel.

Following Obama's move, Thomas posted this childhood photo of him and his mom on his Facebook page.

Things got tougher for the family after this shot was taken, as Thomas told Fox31 in a 2013 interview that also included participation via phone from his mother and grandmother.

When he was twelve, Katina and Minnie went to prison on drug charges

“I was not actually selling drugs," Katina maintained. "The DA wanted me to testify against my mother and said if I didn't testify against my mother, I'd get charged with the whole conspiracy."

Despite Katina's decision not to roll over on her mom, Minnie still got the tougher jolt: While both women were sentenced to life in prison, Katina was offered a chance of parole after twenty years, while Minnie's first opportunity for release won't come until forty years have passed — although good behavior and other considerations may lower that number to some degree.

Meanwhile, Thomas noted that “I didn’t even talk to my mom or grandma until my junior or senior year. I couldn’t call them. I wasn’t driving, so I couldn’t go see them."

As the years went on, Thomas attended Georgia Tech, where his skills quickly attracted the attention of NFL scouts — and his career to date with the Broncos has certainly paid off. Last July, he signed a five-year contract worth an estimated $70 million.

Meanwhile, Katina was able to keep up with his exploits from prison.

“Me, my mother and some of the other ladies in the unit that I’m with watch the game together,” Katina told Fox31 in 2013. “I sit in the TV room writing down all the stats, how many touchdowns, how many catches, how many yards, if he did anything spectacular.”

As for Demaryius, he noted that “I try to see them on my bye weeks, every time I go home. I take my sisters, and they give me a call before and after every game.

“It’s funny, they have a group of girls and they watch the games together," he added. "They make number 88 shirts. Last time I went there, I had to take pictures with every woman that was there."

This Sunday, photos with Katina are likely to have a new backdrop: Mile High Stadium.

Here's the aforementioned Fox31 piece from 2013.