- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

DUBLIN, Ga. (AP) - The makeshift hideaway signing table sat behind a Sunday school dry erase board and half of a golden rod accordion room divider; the simple accommodations not belying the very special guest sitting around the corner.

But there was NFL Pro Bowler and second team All-Pro wide receiver Demaryius “Baybay” Thomas, clad in sweats seated at a desk piled high with memorabilia ready to be emblazoned with his monicker and a short note to the line forming on the other side of the curtain.

Even with four years under his belt, and a record performance in Super Bowl XLVIII, Thomas still acted coy and surprised by all the attention coming from “fans” he used to know simply as friends and neighbors.

“It’s good. It’s been a while since I’ve been home,” Thomas said. “Good to see everybody who has supported me for so long.”

Wednesday night’s autograph signing event at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church served as a precursor for Thomas‘ big day Friday, when he speaks before more than 1,500 at the Annual Dublin St. Patrick’s Festival Joint Civic Luncheon.

According to Thomas, the soft spoken wideout hadn’t put the finishing touches on his speech just yet.

“Not yet. Still getting help,” Thomas said. “Most people know I don’t like talking, but I’m excited. It’s a big thing.”

With nearly six weeks separating Thomas from his Super Bowl debut - one where he caught a record 13 passes and since been called a “top five-caliber receiver” by former teammate Erik Decker - Thomas said he has started to digest all that was the Denver Broncos‘ 2013 NFL season.

“You know I have,” Thomas said. “It was a great experience. Although it didn’t end well for us, but to think from my first season when I got injured to my fourth we were play for a Super Bowl and see all those different things, it was special.”

And, for the most part, the experience lived up to Thomas‘ expectations and left him starving for another shot under the big lights.

“It did for the most part,” Thomas said. “I didn’t expect the media day to be like it was. There were like 500 people and they did a lot of different things. Some of them wanted to play little games with

some players, others had all kinds of questions.”

The main question concerning Thomas and Broncos‘ fans is: Will they make it to Glendale, Ariz. next February?

Thomas said if he and the team take the same approach following their loss to eventual champ Baltimore two years ago, they have an opportunity to make another deep playoff run.

“Basically, take this season and build on it similarly to what we did when we lost to Baltimore two years ago following the bye,” Thomas said. “We didn’t play our best football and we know we have some things to work on.

“We’ve made some good pickups. With (All-Pros) Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Emmanuel Sanders, we’ve got some great guys to fill some of the holes from guys who left.

“Erik Decker was a great guy and a great player, and so was Champ Bailey and Wesley Woodyard, but these new guys will hopefully help us prepare for another run for the Super Bowl.”

Decker put Thomas back in the news prior to signing a free agent deal with Jets, when Thomas‘ former Broncos‘ teammate put the Montrose native among the top at his position.

“I think Demaryius Thomas is on a complete different level with his talent,” Decker told The Denver Post earlier this month. “I think he’s a top five-caliber receiver in this league. How it falls off from there, where you look at a receiver, I just try to be versatile and play all the positions. People might want to label me, but I don’t want to put a label on myself.”

Thomas was flattered by the compliment, but he stood by the same stance he’s taken since entering the league four years ago; whatever it takes for the team.

“There’s a hunger you can’t describe after getting to a Super Bowl,” Thomas said, “because you never know the next time you’re going to get to go back. There’s a hunger to play your best football on the biggest stage. That’s my main goal. And, like I’ve said before, it doesn’t matter how you win.”

That same volunteer spirit shone through as the first handful of fans were ushered around the dry erase board and met with Thomas‘ toothy grin and a handshake or, for most of the kids, a high five.

“It’s really cool,” said Grant Daniels, who threw in a “My granddad went to Georgia Tech” to the former Yellow Jacket receiver.

As the line snaked around, other kids, like Jackson Locke, bounced around his parents with anticipation at the chance to meet his favorite player and hometown hero.

“It’s amazing,” Locke said through an ear-to-ear smile.

And not everybody had a short commute to Wednesday’s autograph signing soiree.

Mark Martinez, a Colorado-native, happened to be in the area with work and got word one of his favorite players from his favorite team was serendipitously just as far east as Martinez happened to be.

“I’m from the Rocky Mountains,” said Martinez, who shared even more with Thomas as the wideout autographed a No. 88 jersey. “Out here with work and a good friend told me about it. I’ve been a fan of the Broncos since ‘83. And I bought my Demaryius jersey two years ago. This is cool.”


Information from: The Courier Herald, https://www.courier-herald.com

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