Thomas in 2002
|No. 54, 55|
|Date of birth:||September 1, 1973|
|Place of birth:||Pampa, Texas|
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||242 lb (110 kg)|
|High school:||Pampa (TX)|
|NFL Draft:||1996 / Round: 5 / Pick: 154|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|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.
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.
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. He recorded 390 tackles, including a career-high 131 tackles and a school-record 20 tackles against Missouri in his senior season. 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 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.  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. Thomas's $6.5 million in salary and bonus made him the Dolphins highest paid player, surpassing Dan Marino. 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. 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.
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.
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. The deal included a $1 million base salary, a $1 million signing bonus and a $1 million incentive-based bonus based on playing time.
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.
He started 14 of 16 games, while being limited to playing in first and second downs. He finsihed the season with 94 tackles (65 solo) and also helped to mentor former first round pick Bobby Carpenter.
He suffered a concussion early in training camp and was eventually released on September 5, after not playing in any exhibition games. In October, he filed a grievance against the Chiefs for releasing him without an injury settlement while recovering.
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.
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:
Thomas' sister Katina is married to Jason Taylor, Thomas' former teammate in Miami. Thomas' father is the builder and proprietor of the second largest cross in the Western Hemisphere, located in Groom, Texas. Thomas is married to Maritza Thomas.
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