Klee: Humility leads Demaryius Thomas into NFL's elite

By: Paul Klee
January 7, 2014 Updated: January 8, 2014 at 11:03 am
photo - Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is pictured during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is pictured during an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) 

DENVER — Maybe if Demaryius Thomas would throw a sideline tantrum, ditch the boring nickname or play with a rotten quarterback, he would get more attention.

Toss a helmet or something, man.

As it stands now, DT represents a poor example of an elite wide receiver in the NFL. They are supposed to be loud, rippling with swag, too cool for school.

Can you picture that slight Southern smile telling Peyton Manning to give him the damn ball?

"At first, when he got here, I'll be honest, I was scared to talk to him. It was Peyton Manning," Thomas told me in a quiet corner at Dove Valley.

"I'm no different than anyone else. I mean, it's Peyton."

Did DT miss the memo? Skip the class that taught wide receivers how to act after scoring a touchdown? His touchdown dance consists of tapping helmets with Manning on the way back to the sideline.

The Broncos host the Chargers in a playoff game Sunday. When certain ESPN reporters trickle into the Broncos locker room, DT hides in a hallway. His idea of self-promotion is appearing on 102.3 ESPN, the local affiliate, for a half hour on Tuesdays.

He's doing it wrong.


"I really didn't expect to make it, to tell you the truth," he said.

Pull it together, DT. For real.

At 26, Thomas led NFL wideouts with 14 touchdowns. His best touchdowns came in late July, on a dirty field at Littleton High School, during his summer camp for little kids.

"I'm trying to score a touchdown on every field," Thomas whispered as he held the football above a swarm of adoring 9-year-olds.

On a menu of NFL wide receivers, Thomas is the healthy option, earmarked with a heart.

Reserved to a fault, Thomas has an image problem at his chosen position. He does brash like Dez Bryant does subtle. When DT gets a phone number from the prettiest girl in the bar, he probably waits a week to call, if he does.

But the All-Pro list got his attention.

All-Pro is different than Pro Bowl. Good seasons make the Pro Bowl; great seasons make All-Pro. The All-Pros are the best of the best. There's a first team and a second team. That's it.

In the wide-open NFL, the proliferation of gaudy stats and the presence of Calvin Johnson make it tougher than ever to earn a position as an All-Pro wide receiver.

Twenty-three wide receivers gained at least 1,000 yards. Compare that to 10 years prior, when only 14 cleared 1,000 yards.

And like a parking spot reserved for the company president, one slot has Calvin Johnson's name tattooed in permanent ink. Megatron's an All-Pro given.

Further, with Manning at quarterback, the Broncos are an equal-opportunity operation, the first team in history with five players scoring 10 touchdowns. The other All-Pro wideouts — Johnson (first team), Josh Gordon (first), A.J. Green (second) and Antonio Brown (second) — were clear-cut No. 1 options.

"That's why I didn't expect to make it," Thomas said. "As a group, with all of our guys, we didn't really have a main target. So for me to be on the group that made All-Pro, it's a big deal to me. There's a lot of guys that had better numbers than me.

"I was surprised. I was happy to make it, but I was surprised."

DT isn't trying to fool anyone. He's aware Manning turns Pro Bowlers into All-Pros.

Has he left a note in Peyton's locker to request another five years from the ultimate quarterback?

"I wish he would play five more years, man. I'm blessed just to have him for this long. I appreciate him," Thomas said. "At this point, the main thing for him is to win another Super Bowl. That's what we want to do for him."

Here's the kicker: DT is still on his rookie contract.

"Yes, I am," he said, knowing the next question. "I am."

When you see the $27 million guaranteed to Mike Wallace, or the $26 million to Vincent Jackson, or the $20 million to Dwayne Bowe, what about your next deal?

"I try not to think about it. I feel like sometimes guys think about it and that's when they get hurt," he said. "My main thing is staying healthy and then going out and putting up big numbers and put myself in a good situation to get a good contract."

He'll get one, a big one, the kind of money that will impact generations of Thomases. He's a free agent after the 2014 season. The next contract might come from the Broncos, or it might come from elsewhere, but it's coming from somewhere.

"I'd play here for the rest of my career if I could," Thomas said.

At least then we could help with his attitude.


Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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