Thomas with the Kansas City Chiefs
|Position:||Outside linebacker / defensive end|
|Date of birth:||January 1, 1967|
|Place of birth:||Miami, Florida|
|Date of death:||February 8, 2000(aged 33)|
|Place of death:||Kansas City, MO|
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||255 lb (116 kg)|
|High school:||Miami (FL) South|
|NFL Draft:||1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
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). He played his entire 11-year career for the Chiefs after being drafted fourth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. Thomas, a member of the class of 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a premier football player throughout the 1990s and is considered one of the best pass rushers of all time. In 1990 against the Seattle Seahawks, he set an NFL record with seven sacks in a single game. On February 8, 2000, Thomas died from a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. His paralysis was the result of severe injuries sustained in a car accident weeks earlier.
Born in Miami, Florida, Thomas was raised by his mother. His father, Air Force Captain and B-52 pilot Robert James Thomas, died during a mission in the Vietnam War. Thomas started playing football when he was three years old. He played high school football at South Miami Senior High School.
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. 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.
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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.
Thomas's rookie year earned him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award by the Sporting News, and was the first Chiefs' linebacker to be elected to the Pro Bowl in his first season since Hall of Fame player Bobby Bell.
Thomas was known for his ability to sack the quarterback and was named an All-Pro 6 times, and was voted to 9 Pro Bowls in his 11-year career. He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career and still[when?] holds the single game record of 7 quarterback sacks, a feat which occurred against Seattle's Dave Krieg on Veterans Day, 1990. It was a sack that Thomas did not get that decided the game: on the final play, Krieg eluded a blitzing Thomas and threw a touchdown pass to give the Seahawks a 17–16 win. The next player to come close to breaking this record was Thomas himself, recording 6 sacks against the Oakland Raiders in the regular season opener in 1998.
He is one of 31 NFL players to achieve 100 or more sacks, and ranks fifth all-time in Chiefs' history with 649 career tackles. During his career, he also 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.
In 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility.
On January 23, 2000, Thomas' 1999 Chevrolet Suburban went off Interstate 435 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. Police reports indicated that Thomas, who was driving, was speeding at approximately 100 m.p.h. even though snow and ice were accumulating on the roadway. Thomas continued weaving erratically through traffic until the time of the accident. Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the car; the passenger 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 cardio-respiratory arrest and died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled through his venous system to his lungs. 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.
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.
On January 31, 2009, Thomas was named among six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was officially posthumously inducted in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009, after four years as a finalist in the Hall of Fame voting. 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.
The Chiefs named their player of the year award in Thomas's honor.