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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas stands at 6-foot-3, 229 pounds. He's chiseled, built like an elite No. 1 receiver. Paid like one, too.

On Monday's Super Bowl 50 media night, it might have felt like he shrank in size looking out at the hundreds of reporters firing questions his way.

Most of the inquiries were about his mother, Katina Smith, who will be getting on her second-ever flight, to Santa Clara, Calif., to see her son play Sunday. The usually reserved Thomas opened up about how he was worried for his mother being in a big city.

"The main thing I've been thinking about is having her out," he said. "It's going to be so many people, and she's not used to it. Hopefully, nobody asks her too many questions or wants to get her in too much stuff."

Thomas said his mind has often wandered from football to his mom, who was recently released from prison. It has shown in his play with dropped passes.

His numbers — 105 catches, 1,304 yards and six touchdowns — were there this season, but Thomas and Broncos fans would agree that it has been a bit of a disappointing season.

"I have to go out and play better than I've been playing, for sure," said Thomas, who leads the Broncos with 11 dropped passes. "It's some pressure there."

Photos:Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 50 Opening Night


In the Broncos' two biggest games, victories over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in November and again in the AFC title game, Thomas combined for just three catches and 48 yards on 20 targets.

So it's only natural to ask: Will the real Demaryius Thomas please stand up?

"I don't need to talk to him about that. He knows it," said Rod Smith, the Broncos' all-time leading receiver and a close supporter of Thomas'. "When the lights come on, that's when the stars shine the brightest."

Thomas was the only bright star in the Broncos' most recent trip to the big game in 2014. He set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown in a 43-8 beatdown by Seattle.

After the game, he got a call from his mother in prison. Her message: "Keep your head up. You'll get another chance."

He didn't know he would.

"I didn't think we would be back two years later in the spot we're at now," Thomas said. "It's a great feeling. Now, we have to get a win."

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said some of Thomas' struggles are based on defensive schemes aimed to stop him. He said New England coach Bill Belichick took Thomas out of contention during the AFC championship game.

The Broncos did. Quarterback Peyton Manning found tight end Owen Daniels twice in the back of the end zone in the first half. Denver's defense did enough in the second half to secure the victory.

In Super Bowl 50, however, the Broncos will need their star receiver to beat one-on-one coverage and make difficult catches — and especially the easy ones. The Broncos can't afford to try to win another game in spite of Thomas.

Cameron Wolfe: 303-954-1891, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @CameronWolfe

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