The Denver Broncos were honored by President Barack Obama for its Super Bowl 50 win against the Carolina Panthers, but for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the honor belonged to the commander-in-chief.
President Obama commuted the sentence of 46 prisoners—including Thomas’s mother, Katina Smith—for nonviolent drug offenses last year. The release of Smith allowed for the mother of three to witness her son play football in person for the first time ever.
“I talked to him for a quick second. I told him, “Thank you for helping my family,'” Thomas said. “We talked about my mother and we also talked about my grandmother.”
Thomas’s mother, Katina Smith, and his grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, were operators of a crack cocaine ring outside of their Georgia home. Smith was sentenced to 292 months of prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base. Thomas—a three-time drug offender—was given a life sentence. The pair has been housed in a Florida federal prison since 2000 until Obama commuted the sentence of Katina Smith.
“These men and women were not hardened criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years,” Obama said. “I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
Obama added: “Fourteen of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses. So their punishments didn’t fit the crime.”
When Demaryius Thomas heard that his mother’s release date was set for November, he took to Facebook to express his gratitude.
“God is good.. Great news today, My Best lady come home November 10.. Godbless..,” he captioned a photo of his mother.
During the team’s visit, Obama was presented with a No. 44 jersey and a team signed helmet by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s wife, Annabel.