Tim Tebow's Miracle of Mile High last Sunday got armchair conspiracy theorists speculating once again that the Broncos quarterback might be receiving divine help.
Well, he might not be the only one.
Demaryius Thomas, the other half of the dramatic duo that combined to take down the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first overtime play of the AFC wildcard showdown might have, if it's possible, even closer ties with the Almighty than Tebow.
Not only is Thomas -- a second year wide receiver out of Georgia Tech -- a devout Christian who prides himself on personal discipline and charitable works (sound familiar?), he was born on perhaps the most significant calendar date in all Christianity.
As in the one that falls on December 25th.
"It is important to me," Thomas says of his faith. "It has helped me to become the person I am and the football player I am. There have been things in my career and in my life that I had to get through, tough times. You take strength from certain things and my beliefs are one of those."
Whatever the outcome of the Broncos' AFC playoff game against the New England Patriots on Saturday, it is likely that the defining point of his season will remain that magical moment last weekend, when he caught Tebow’s pinpoint pass, stopped approaching Steelers defender Ike Taylor with a brutal stiff-arm, and took the ball to the end zone for the game-ending touchdown.
Yet that highlight was the culmination of a long and tough struggle for Thomas, for whom the chance at an NFL career looked like a serious long shot for most of his teenage years.
As a 12-year-old, he was taken under the care of an uncle after both his mother and grandmother were incarcerated for selling crack cocaine from their home in Montrose, Ga. Both women remain imprisoned in Tallahassee, Fla., where they watch Thomas’ games huddled around a small television surrounded by other inmates.
Even when Thomas made it to the NFL -- courtesy of the 22nd pick in the 2010 Draft -- the transition to the professional ranks was far from smooth. He missed half his first season with a broken foot, then tore an Achilles a year ago. That injury that had him considering retirement.
"I put in so much hard work to get into the league," Thomas says. "Then you get there and it looks like it is going to get taken away from you. One thing after another. Injuries like that are so hard because you go through all this pain and work but you don't get to step on the field. All you do is work and wait."
Hard work -- and maybe a little bit of fortune -- are a far better explanation of Broncos' continued involvement in this post-season than Messianic influence. But you can’t shake the sense that the Broncos feel they are getting some extra assistance.
"I don't exactly know what it is," Thomas says. "Things have fallen into place for us at the right times. When things are tight and important we have had people step up and perform and get the job done. That is what we want to keep happening. We don't want it to end now."
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