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Zach Thomas
refer to caption
Thomas in 2002
No. 54, 55
Position: Middle linebacker
Personal information
Born: (1973-09-01) September 1, 1973 (age 44)
Pampa, Texas
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight: 242 lb (110 kg)
Career information
High school: Pampa (TX)
College: Texas Tech
NFL Draft: 1996 / Round: 5 / Pick: 154
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played: 184
Tackles: 1,100
Quarterback sacks: 20.5
Interceptions: 17
Forced fumbles: 17
Fumble Recoveries: 8
Touchdowns: 4
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Zachary Michael Thomas (born September 1, 1973) is a former American college and professional football player who was a middle linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. He played college football for Texas Tech University, and was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and played for the Dolphins his first twelve seasons in the NFL. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and recorded 1,100 tackles.[1]

Early years[edit]

Thomas was born in Pampa, Texas. He attended White Deer Schools in White Deer, Texas until he was a sophomore then transferred to Pampa High School in his junior year. He was a standout high school football player and was named a first-team all-state selection as a senior. Thomas and his older brother, Bart, were high school teammates at White Deer High School in White Deer, Texas; in 1988, Thomas' freshman year, the White Deer team went 16–0 and won the Class 1A state championship.

College career[edit]

Thomas attended Texas Tech University, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker for the Texas Tech Red Raiders football team. As a junior in 1994, he was a first-team All-American. As a senior in 1995, he was a unanimous first-team All-American, the Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and a finalist for the Butkus Award. Thomas is one of 5 Red Raiders to be named a Unanimous All-American along with Mark Bounds, Byron Hanspard, Michael Crabtree, and Jace Amaro.[2] He recorded 390 tackles, including a career-high 131 tackles and a school-record 20 tackles against Missouri in his senior season.[3] Thomas and his brother Bart were the only pair of brothers to be named first-team All-Southwest Conference selections in the same year.

Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.[4]

College awards and honors[edit]

Professional career[edit]

Zach Thomas during his tenure with the Dolphins

Miami Dolphins[edit]

Thomas was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. On July 3, 1996, Thomas agreed to a three-year $577,000 deal with Miami.[5] [6] He was a Pro Bowl alternate and an All-Rookie selection in 1996. In 1997 Thomas totaled 128 tackles while playing and starting 15 games. In 1998 Thomas made All-Pro for the first time, making 133 tackles, a sack, an interception and forcing a fumble as the Dolphins defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL.

On February 13, 1999, Thomas signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract (including a $4.5 million signing bonus) to remain with the Dolphins.[7] Thomas's $6.5 million in salary and bonus made him the Dolphins highest paid player, surpassing Dan Marino.[8] In 1999 Thomas had 133 tackles and was All-Pro for the second straight season. The following year, he had 99 tackles due to missing 5 games. In 2001, he had 155 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions 2 forced fumbles and defensed four passes and was a First-team All-Pro for the third time. His numbers were similar in 2002 as he made All-Pro for the fourth time in five seasons.

Thomas signed a five-year, $33.75 million contract extension with the Miami Dolphins on March 27, 2003, that includes a $10.5 million signing bonus and was to extend through the 2008 season.[9] Thomas was entering the last year of the five-year, $22.5 million contract he signed prior to the 1999 season. Thomas responded with 153 tackles and 3 interceptions and his fifth All-Pro selection in six years.

Thomas led the Dolphins in tackles with 165 in 2005 after missing two games with ankle and shoulder injuries; he is also one of three players to record one hundred or more tackles in each of his first ten seasons in the NFL. Thomas was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl appearance in 2006, tied for the third most Pro Bowl appearances in club history; this is also the most of such selections among all defensive players in Dolphins history. He has also been selected First- and Second-Team All-Pro seven times.

In 2007, he suffered a concussion after tackling Dallas Cowboys fullback Oliver Hoyte in the second game of the season. On October 7, he returned to play against the Houston Texans. After the New England Patriots contest on October 21, Thomas was involved in a car collision that caused him migraine headaches that lingered until being placed on the injured reserve list on December4 and shortened his season to only 5 games.[10]

Zach Thomas had more tackles than any linebacker in the Pro Football Hall of Fame until the induction of Junior Seau, currently ranking sixth all-time behind Ray Lewis, Randy Gradishar, London Fletcher, Seau and Jessie Tuggle.

Thomas's tenure with the Dolphins ended on February 14, 2008, when it was announced by the team that he no longer fit into their long term plans and his contract was terminated.[11]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

On February 23, 2008, after also receiving contract offers from the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, Thomas decided to take less money and sign as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys to a one-year $3 million contract.[12] The deal included a $1 million base salary, a $1 million signing bonus and a $1 million incentive-based bonus based on playing time.[12]

The signing was a surprise to the media and observers, considering that he didn't have the previous experience or the size to play in the Cowboys 3-4 defense. After he joined the roster, the Cowboys traded linebacker Akin Ayodele to the Miami Dolphins to clear space for Thomas to become a starter at inside linebacker.[13]

He started 14 of 16 games, while being limited to playing in first and second downs. He finished the season with 94 tackles (65 solo) and also helped to mentor former first round pick Bobby Carpenter.

Kansas City Chiefs[edit]

An unrestricted free agent in the 2009 offseason, Thomas agreed to terms with the Kansas City Chiefs on April 11.[14] The one-year contract was worth $2 million.[15]

He suffered a concussion early in training camp and was eventually released on September 5, after not playing in any exhibition games.[16] In October, he filed a grievance against the Chiefs for releasing him without an injury settlement while recovering.[17]


On May 18, 2010 Thomas signed a one-day ceremonial contract, officially worth $1, in order to retire as a member of the Miami Dolphins. He also owns the Zach's Club 54 in Amarillo and Lubbock.

Awards and honors[edit]

Thomas (right) with agent Drew Rosenhaus

In addition to being a seven-time All-Pro selection by the Associated Press and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, Thomas earned the following awards and honors in his NFL career:

  • NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month (October 1996)
  • All-Rookie selection by College & Pro Football Newsweekly, The Football News, Pro Football Weekly and Pro Football Writers of America (1996)
  • AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year (1996)
  • Dolphins' 1996 Unsung Hero Award as selected by NFLPA
  • Dolphins MVP and Newcomer of the Year by South Florida media (1996)
  • AFC Defensive Player of the Month (September 1998)
  • 2× NFL Alumni Association's Linebacker of the Year (1998, 2006)
  • First-team All-Pro selection by the USA Today, College & Pro Football Newsweekly and Football Digest (1998)
  • 1998 All-Madden Team (1998)
  • 3× Dolphins' Leadership Award (1998, 1999, 2005)
  • Weeks 1 & 16 2001 AFC Defensive Player of the Week (2001)
  • Dolphins MVP by South Florida media and fans (2001)
  • All-Iron Team as selected by CBS analyst Phil Simms (2001)
  • PFWA Dolphins Chapter "Good Guy" Award (2001)
  • First-team Pro Football Weekly All-AFC (2002)
  • First-team Sports Illustrated All-Pro (2003)
  • Second-team Football Digest All-Pro (2003)
  • Week 14 AFC Defensive Player of the Week (2005)
  • All-AFC selection by Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America (2006)
  • More tackles than any linebacker currently in the Hall of Fame besides Ray Lewis. (2,061)

NFL career statistics[edit]

Career statistics Tackles Sacks Interceptions Other
Season Team Games Solo Ast Total Sack Int Yds IntTD DefTD FFum Safety PD
1996 Miami 16 118 35 153 2.0 3 64 1 1 2 0 5
1997 Miami 15 77 50 127 0.5 1 10 0 0 2 0 8
1998 Miami 16 117 36 153 2.0 3 0 2 0 3 0 7
1999 Miami 16 79 53 132 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 9
2000 Miami 9 56 43 99 1.5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
2001 Miami 15 94 60 154 3.0 2 51 1 1 2 0 4
2002 Miami 16 101 55 156 0.5 1 7 0 0 0 0 3
2003 Miami 15 84 68 152 1.0 3 21 0 0 1 0 9
2004 Miami 16 85 60 145 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
2005 Miami 14 104 54 158 2.0 1 0 0 2 4 0 4
2006 Miami 16 103 62 165 3.0 1 (-4) 0 0 2 0 5
2007 Miami 5 42 10 52 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
2008 Dallas 16 65 29 94 1.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Career 184 1090 630 1,720 20.5 17 170 4 4 17 0 68


Personal life[edit]

Thomas' sister Katina was married to Jason Taylor, Thomas' former teammate in Miami, from 2000-2015. [18] Thomas' father is the builder and proprietor of the second largest cross in the Western Hemisphere, located in Groom, Texas.[19] Thomas is married to Maritza Thomas.


  1. ^ a b "Zach Thomas ESPN Stats". 
  2. ^ Trotter, Jake (December 18, 2013). "Amaro, Richardson unanimous AA's". ESPN. Retrieved December 21, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Greatest Tech athelete [sic] poll: Wes Welker and Zach Thomas profiles". The Daily Toreador. March 26, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. 
  4. ^ "NFF Proudly Announces Star-Studded 2015 College Football Hall of Fame Class". National Football Foundation. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "SPORTS BRIEFLY" Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 4, 1996.
  6. ^ "Tech's Thomas, Dolphins agree", Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1996.
  7. ^ "THOMAS SIGNS TO STAY A DOLPHIN", Chicago Tribune, February 13, 1999.
  8. ^ "THOMAS PASSES MARINO AS DOLPHINS' HIGHEST-PAID PLAYER", Miami Herald, September 13, 1999.
  9. ^ Price, Jeff (March 28, 2003). "Zach Thomas signs contract extension with Dolphins". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  10. ^ "Nothing Wrong With Asking Why". February 26, 2008. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  11. ^ "Dolphins release Thomas after 12 seasons". February 15, 2008. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  12. ^ a b Pasquarelli, Len (February 24, 2008). "Thomas appears headed home to Texas, deal with Dallas". Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  13. ^ "Cowboys trade Ayodele, Fasano to Dolphins for fourth-round pick". April 25, 2008. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  14. ^ "Chiefs, LB Thomas agree to deal". April 13, 2009. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Chiefs announce roster moves". Kansas City Chiefs. 2009-09-05. Archived from the original on September 8, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  17. ^ "Thomas was among Chiefs' final cuts". October 4, 2009. Retrieved 2016-11-30. 
  18. ^ Jason Taylor Almost Quit Archived 2009-03-27 at the Wayback Machine. Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 21, 2007
  19. ^ [1] Act Two. Does Size Matter If You're Talking About a Cross? This American Life, Ep. 202: Faith

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