Derrick Thomas

Last updated

Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas Chiefs portrait photo.jpg
Thomas with the Chiefs
No. 58
Position: Outside linebacker / defensive end
Personal information
Born:(1967-01-01)January 1, 1967
Miami, Florida
Died:February 8, 2000(2000-02-08) (aged 33)
Miami, Florida
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school: South Miami (Miami, Florida)
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 1989  / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Career highlights and awards
NFL record
  • Sacks in a game (7)
Career NFL statistics
Tackles:642
Sacks:126.5
Forced fumbles:41
Interceptions:1
Fumble recoveries:19
Defensive touchdowns:4
Player stats at NFL.com  ·  PFR

Derrick Vincent Thomas (January 1, 1967 – February 8, 2000), nicknamed D.T., was an American football linebacker and defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). Thomas earned All-American honors during his college football career at Alabama and was selected fourth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Chiefs, where he played 11 seasons until his death in 2000. Considered one of the greatest pass rushers of all time, [1] he received nine Pro Bowl and three first-team All-Pro selections, along with holding the record for most sacks in a single game at seven.

Contents

After the conclusion of the Chiefs' 1999 season, Thomas was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Days later, he died from a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot that developed in his paralyzed legs and traveled to his lungs. Thomas was posthumously inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Early life

Born in Miami, Florida, Thomas was raised by his mother Edith Morgan. [2] His father, Air Force Captain and B-52 pilot Robert James Thomas, died during a mission in the Vietnam War. [3] Thomas started playing football when he was three years old, and played his high school football at South Miami Senior High School.

College career

Alongside Cornelius Bennett and later Keith McCants at Alabama, Thomas spearheaded one of the best defensive lines in college football and smashed many Crimson Tide defensive records, including sacks in a single season. He was awarded the Butkus Award in 1988 after a season which saw him set an NCAA record 27 sacks along with finishing 10th in Heisman Trophy balloting. He currently holds the single season NCAA FBS sack record with 27 and what was the career sack record with 52 career sacks. He was also selected as a unanimous All-American at the conclusion of the 1988 season, a season which culminated in the Crimson Tide's thrilling 29-28 victory over Army in the 1988 Sun Bowl. In 2000, Thomas was named a Sun Bowl Legend. [4] He was awarded the Sington Soaring Spirit Award by the Lakeshore Foundation. This annual award is named for University of Alabama football legend Fred Sington. Thomas was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014. [5]

Professional career

Thomas was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft, fourth overall, and was signed by the Chiefs. He would remain with the Chiefs for his entire career. [6] [7]

Thomas' rookie year earned him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award by the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America and the United Press International AFC Rookie of the Year award. He was the first Chiefs' linebacker to be elected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie since Hall of Fame player Bobby Bell.

Thomas was known for his ability to sack the quarterback and was named a First Team All-Pro two times, Second Team All-Pro four times, and was voted to nine Pro Bowls in his 11-year career. [8] He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career, [8] and as of the start of the 2017 NFL season, holds the single game record of seven quarterback sacks, a feat which occurred against Seattle's Dave Krieg on 1990 Veterans Day. [9] Despite this feat, Krieg eluded a blitzing Thomas on the game's last play and threw a touchdown pass to Paul Skansi, which gave the Seahawks a 17–16 win. The record came close to being matched with three occasions of players reaching six sacks, once by Thomas himself in 1998. [9]

He is one of 32 NFL players to achieve 100 or more sacks, and ranks as the Chiefs' all-time sack leader with 126.5. Thomas is also the seventh all-time tackler in Chiefs' history with 642 career tackles. During his career, he recorded 1 interception and recovered 19 fumbles, returning them for 161 yards and 4 touchdowns. Thomas established Chiefs career records for sacks, safeties, fumble recoveries, and forced fumbles. [10]

NFL career statistics

YearTeamGPGSCombSoloAstSackSftyFFFRYdsTDBlkIntYdsAvgTDPD
1989 KC 161675561910.003100000000
1990 KC 151563471620.0062140000000
1991 KC 161579601913.5044231000000
1992 KC 161667541314.508301000001
1993 KC 16154332118.0041861000000
1994 KC 16157167411.0133110000003
1995 KC 1515534858.002100000004
1996 KC 16145549613.004100100005
1997 KC 1210343049.513000000000
1998 KC 15104235712.0122271000001
1999 KC 1616605467.002100012020.005
Career169157642532110126.5341191614112020.0019

Death

On January 23, 2000, Thomas' 1999 Chevrolet Suburban went off Interstate 435 in Clay County as he and two passengers were driving to Kansas City International Airport during a snowstorm for a flight to St. Louis to watch the NFC Championship Game between the St. Louis Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Police reports indicated that Thomas, who was driving, was speeding at approximately 70 m.p.h. even though snow and ice were rapidly accumulating on the roadway. [11] Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the car; the passenger, Michael Tellis, was killed instantly. The second passenger, who was wearing his safety belt, walked away from the scene uninjured. Thomas was left paralyzed from the chest down. By early February, Thomas was being treated at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. The morning of February 8, 2000, while being transferred from his hospital bed to a wheelchair on his way to therapy, Thomas told his mother he was not feeling well. His eyes then rolled back, recalled Frank Eismont, an orthopedic surgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Eismont said Thomas went into cardiorespiratory arrest and died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, a massive blood clot that developed in his legs and traveled to his lungs. [12] Months later, Thomas' family sued General Motors for $73 million in damages stemming from the accident. In 2004, a jury ruled that the family was not entitled to any money. [13]

Legacy

In 1990, Thomas founded the Derrick Thomas Third and Long Foundation. The foundation's mission is to "sack illiteracy" and change the lives of 9- to 13-year-old urban children facing challenging and life-threatening situations in the Kansas City area.[ citation needed ]

On January 31, 2009, Thomas was posthumously named among six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his fifth year of eligibility. [14] He was officially posthumously inducted in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009, after four years as a finalist in the Hall of Fame voting. [15] The Chiefs announced on June 23, 2009, that they would retire #58 in honor of Thomas, and the retirement ceremony took place on December 6, 2009, when the Chiefs played the Denver Broncos. [16]

The Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in September 2001. It served nearly 1,000 children from kindergarten through eighth grade until it closed in 2013. [17]

The Chiefs named their player of the year award in Thomas' honor, an award he won twice himself prior to the award being named in his honor.

Sources

  1. "Top 10 pass rushers in NFL history". NFL.com. October 7, 2008. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  2. "Derrick Thomas still chief in minds of Kansas City faithful as Super Bowl approaches". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  3. Leone, Dario (December 22, 2018). "Remembering Capt. Thomas, the co-pilot of Charcoal 01, the first B-52 shot down during Operation Linebacker II". The Aviation Geek Club. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. National Football Foundation (May 22, 2014). "NFF Proudly Announces Impressive 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class". FootballFoundation.org. Retrieved May 22, 2014.
  6. National Football League. "NFL Draft History - 1989". National Football League. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  7. National Football League. "Derrick Thomas Player Profile". National Football League. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  8. 1 2 Pro Football Reference. "Derrick Thomas". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  9. 1 2 Sports Illustrated. "Most NFL Single Game Sacks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 3, 2017.
  10. Kansas City Chiefs. "2017 Kansas Chiefs Media Guide" (PDF). Kansas City Chiefs. Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  11. "Chiefs' Thomas dead at 33". CNNSI.com. Associated Press. February 8, 2000. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  12. "Blood Clot Killed Thomas, Doctors Say". CNNSI.com. Associated Press. February 10, 2000. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  13. "Thomas family sought $73M in suit". ESPN.com. August 17, 2004. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  14. Covitz, Randy (January 31, 2008). "Derrick Thomas elected to Hall of Fame. His son accepted the award in the hall of fame for Derrick Thomas". Kansascity.com: The Kansas City Star website. The McClatchy Company. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  15. "Hall of Famers: Yearly Finalists". Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  16. "LB Derrick Thomas Will Have His #58 Retired, Family to Receive HOF Ring at Arrowhead vs. Denver on December 6th". Kansas City Chiefs Website. Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2009.
  17. Koepp, Paul (July 24, 2013). "Closing of Derrick Thomas Academy leaves legal mess". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved February 12, 2017.

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