Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"To me, a sack could be described as a play with a plot. You have ups and downs, and then all of a sudden, it's drawing to the conclusion, everybody is in suspense, it's building, and building, and boom, you have a hero.''
(Alabama). . . 6'3", 243. . . Fourth player overall, 1989 draft. . . Defensive Rookie of the Year. . . Led NFL with team record 20 sacks; including NFL record seven sacks in one game, 1990 . . .Named to nine Pro Bowls. . .Accumulated most sacks in NFL during 1990s. . .Recorded 126.5 career sacks. . .All-NFL three times. . .All-AFC seven times. . .Born January 1, 1967 in Miami, Florida. . .Died February 8, 2000, at age of 33.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected linebacker Derrick Thomas as the fourth player overall in the 1989 National Football League Draft. A consensus All-America and Dick Butkus Award winner at Alabama, Thomas excelled as a pass rusher who set the school record for sacks.
His pass rushing specialty continued on the professional level as he amassed 10 sacks as a rookie for the Chiefs in 1989. He also added 75 tackles that season to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Following the season, Thomas was named to the first of nine straight Pro Bowls.
The 6'3", 243-pound linebacker showcased his talent in a big way during his second NFL season. He recorded a league-leading and team record 20 sacks that included an NFL record seven sacks in a game versus the Seattle Seahawks on November 11, 1990. He also recorded a team high six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 63 tackles, five pass deflections and 35 quarterback pressures. His season-long performance earned him All-Pro recognition for the first time, an honor he would receive two other times during his career.
His extraordinary pass rushing skills continued throughout his 11-season career that was tragically cut short by his death following an automobile accident shortly after the 1999 NFL regular season.
No player amassed more sacks during the decade of 1990s than the 116.5 sacks by Thomas. He finished his career with 126.5 sacks which was the fourth highest total by a linebacker in NFL history. Thomas had 10 or more sacks in a season seven times and recorded multi-sack games 27 times during his 169-game career.
In addition to his career sack total, Thomas also forced 45 fumbles, had 19 fumble recoveries, scored four touchdowns on fumble returns and added three safeties. His lone interception, which he returned for 20 yards, came during his final season in 1999.
Thomas, a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s, was named first-team All-AFC seven times during an eight-year stretch from 1989 through 1996.
His contribution to the Chiefs franchise was nearly immeasurable. Prior to his arrival in Kansas City, the team had made just one playoff appearance since 1971. In the 11 years that Thomas anchored the defense, the Chiefs finished first or second in the AFC West ten times, made seven playoff appearances, and won three division titles.
1993 AFC - Buffalo Bills 30, Kansas City Chiefs 13
Thomas started as the roaming linebacker. He recorded three tackles.
All-Pro: 1990 (AP, PFWA, NEA, SN, PW), 1991 (AP, SN, PW), 1992 (SN, NEA)
All-Pro Second Team: 1991 (NEA), 1993 (AP), 1994 (AP), 1996 (AP)
All-AFC: 1989 (UPI, PW), 1990 (UPI, PW), 1991 (UPI, PW), 1992 (UPI, PW), 1993 (UPI), 1994 (UPI), 1996 (UPI, PW)
All-AFC-Second Team: 1995 (UPI)
(9) - 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
At the time of his retirement following the 1999 season
[1st] Most Sacks, Game - 7 (vs. Seattle, Nov. 11, 1990)
[2nd] Most Touchdowns on Fumble Recoveries, Career - 4
[Tied for 2nd] Most Touchdowns on Opponents' Fumble Recoveries, Career - 4
[Tied for 2nd] Most Sacks, Game - 6 (vs. Oakland, Sept. 6, 1998)
Chiefs' records held by Thomas following his last season in 1999
[1st] Most Opponents Fumbles Recovered, Career - 19
[1st] Most Opponents Fumbles Forced, Career - 45
[1st] Most Opponents Fumbles Forced, Season - 8 (1992)
[1st] Most Sacks, Career - 126.5
[1st] Most Sacks, Season - 20 (1990)
[1st] Most Sacks, Game - 7 (vs. Seattle, Nov. 11, 1990)
[1st] Most Safeties, Career - 3
[Tied for 1st] Most Safeties, Season - 1 (1994, 1997, 1998)
[2nd] Most Opponents Fumbles Forced, Season - 6 (1990, 1994)
[2nd] Most Sacks, Game - 6 (vs. Oakland, Sept. 6, 1998)
[Tied for 3rd] Most Sacks, Season - 14.5 (1992)
[Tied for 3rd] Most Sacks, Game - 4.0 (vs. Buffalo, Oct. 7, 1991; vs. San Diego, Nov. 8, 1992)
[Tied for 3rd] Most Defensive Touchdowns, Career - 4
[1st] Most Sacks, Career - 7.5
[Tied for 1st] Most Games Played, Career - 10
NFL Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1990
AFC Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1990
Team Statistical Championships
Sack Titles: 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992*, 1996, 1998, 1999
1989 Defensive Rookie of the Year (AP, PW)
1990s All-Decade Team
Full Name: Derrick Vincent Thomas
Birthdate: January 1, 1967
Birthplace: Miami, Florida
High School: South (Miami, FL)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 31, 2009
Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 8, 2009
Presenter: Carl Peterson, former President of the Kansas City Chiefs. Thomas was represented posthumously by his son Derrion Thomas.
Other Members of the Class of 2009: Bob Hayes, Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Ralph Wilson, Jr., Rod Woodson
Pro Career: 11 seasons, 169 games
Drafted: 1st round (4th player overall) in 1989 by Kansas City Chiefs
Uniform Number: #58
Derrick Thomas Enshrinement Speech 2009
Presenter: Darrion Thomas
Derrick is a football player; he was always the type of person who was always like a trend setter. He always was going to be the one that really, really got things going.
What I remember the most is all the things I went with him playing.
The characteristics that set Derrick apart on the field was his endurance, his perseverance, his sportsmanship.
He had a very special rookie year. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and also made it to the Pro Bowl. He actually made it to nine Pro Bowls in his professional career. My father's signature move would probably be the Kansas City strip. Which he always talked about how it wasn't important to kill quarterbacks. He just mostly wanted to get the ball loose.
Derrick would just come through and change the course of a game because, you know, the quarterback never knew where Derrick was coming from.
I think his greatest game would be his game against Seattle, which he had seven sacks. >> Derrick had a great pact on the Chiefs. After he came, they made the playoffs seven times. His relationship with the fans of Kansas City was just tremendous. We'd go to a game, and just about everybody had on a 58 jersey.
It would seem crazy when they were on defense. You would just feel your chest rumbling, as soon as they stepped on the field. It gives you goose bumps.
There was always an atmosphere there that you can't see at any other field. Derrick had really made that kind of impact.
One of his biggest contributions would be the relationship between the community and the actual sport of football that players can help out and give back to their communities.
Going into the end zone, he went with this goal of setting up a program, a foundation that he could help or give back. So, he started this reading program. The Third and Long Foundation. He would take the children on Saturday’s, and they'd get a book. And they were responsible for being able to read that book and come back and read to one another. Derrick has impacted so many lives, not only on the field, but off the field.
The Hall of Fame induction would be a huge deal to him. I can imagine such a pride that you'd feel as a player to receive this honor.
I know that Derrick is smiling down now. The fact that he's going into the Hall of Fame with some of the greatest players that ever played the game. And so happy that this moment has come.
Representing the Thomas family, I'm proud to accept on behalf of my father, Derrick Thomas, his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ladies and gentlemen, to present and enshrine Derrick Thomas into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, please welcome, Carl Peterson.
Presenter: Carl Peterson on behalf of Derrick Thomas
The spring of 1989, myself, Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to work out a player we had hoped to consider to be our number one draft choice. He was an extraordinary person, and as his head coach at Alabama said great player, great person, and you'll never tire the young man out. Derrick had not worked out for us at the Indianapolis Combine. And we were a little hot about it. It was a very hot day in Tuscaloosa on the Astro Turf, and Bill Cowher began to work Derrick out. And he worked him out, and he worked him out, and he worked him out. He gave him every linebacker drill he knew. He came back to Marty and I, and he said, what do you think?
After every drill, Derrick would come back and give us that smile that unbelievable smile and say, “coach, what else would you like to see?” I said, let's see some more. Bill Cowher gave him all the defensive line drills. One drill, after another drill, after another. And every time after the drill, Derrick would come over, smile at us, and say “what else would you like to see?” There were four of his teammates that were working out with us at that time, too. And by now they had fallen away, totally exhausted. And Bill Cowher came back and said I'm running out of drills. We said let's see just a few more. And he drilled him with all the defensive back drills that he knew.
Bill came back and he said, “Hey, I'm out of drills and I'm exhausted.” We knew we had a special guy here.
When Derrick Thomas passed from us in February of 2000, I commented to our media that a light had gone out in Kansas City. Today, Derrick Thomas joins the company of the finest to ever play the game. It's appropriate that he takes his place beside the other two great Kansas City Hall of Fame linebackers who are here, Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier.
I know that the other Chiefs Hall of Famers here, and some are past, welcome Derrick also. And I am very thankful to the Thomas family, and particularly Derrick's mother, Edith Morgan for the opportunity to talk about her son. And I'd like the Derrick Thomas family to stand for one minute. Thank you for your guy. Thank you. You see, Derrick and I had a special connection. Forged by the fact that we both came to Kansas City about the same time, and Derrick was my first draft pick. When I came to the Chiefs prior to the 1989 season.
For the next decade, he was the corner stone of the success of the Chiefs' franchise. A decade in which our team, the one that Derrick started on, accounted for more than 10 victories. Derrick Thomas' career was meteoric, he became a symbol of our team's success, and certainly we had other outstanding players at that time, Neil Smith, Christian Okoye, Deron Cherry, Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Will Shields and Tony Gonzalez to simply talk about a few prominent ones.
I'll tell you the story about a young Bill Cowher and Marty. Derrick in his first year as a rookie had 75 tackles, 10 sacks, three fumbles caused. Two fumbles recovered, was the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Later in the spring of 1990, Bill Cowher came to Marty, said “Marty, I've got a great idea. Why don't we do this on the defense? We'll get Derrick lined up in his three-point stance in his normal position right outside linebacker. Then on on the snap of the ball we'll drop him into coverage. We'll bring a couple of guys.” I said, ‘Bill, that's a very interesting concept. Just answer me one question, why would we be having our best pass rusher run away from the quarterback?’
Derrick that year had 20 sacks, and I think without question, that's called great coaching.
For me, the definition of a Pro Football Hall of Famer is that he must be a game changer particularly on the defensive side of the ball. He must be able to create and change the course of a game. Create a play or a serious of plays that swings the momentum of that game in the favor of your team.
In my personal opinion, there are only a handful of such defensive players in the modern era. Lawrence Taylor, the late Reggie White, being honored here tonight in this class, a guy by the name of Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson, 71 interceptions, I may have to include you there, too.
But, yes, the late, great Derrick Thomas. Early on in our friendship, Derrick confided in me that he had a number of things that he wanted to accomplish in his life and as a pro football player. And I think we can say today that he accomplished almost everyone.
Derrick had aspirations beyond the football field. He wanted to earn his degree from the University of Alabama. And coming to the Chiefs, I can tell you that he was a long way from that. But in his 11 years, he spent time during the season, during the off-season attending classes at the University of monmouth, Kansas City. Lamont Winston on our staff provided the needed assistance. And a few months after his passing, I, my wife, Lamont, and a number of Kansas City Chiefs people traveled back to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to see and witness his mother, Edith Morgan and his beloved grandmother, Annie, walk across the commencement stage at the University of Alabama to receive Derrick Thomas' graduation diploma. It was a great day for everyone.
Another primary goal for Derrick that he set for himself was to become the finest football player that he could be, hopefully with a legacy that someday might be rewarded with the NFL's highest honor, the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
We can think back to the closing moments of close games and how the Arrowhead Stadium crowd would chant his name. While all eyes may have been on Joe Montana and Steve Young in a key regular season match-up between the Chiefs and 49ers in 1994, it was Thomas' three sacks that propelled the Chiefs to a 24-17 win. That included a key safety which Derrick calls in the east end zone before the snap. He did that again two other times in his career.
All totalled, 46 different NFL quarterbacks became a victim of a Thomas sack, led by John Elway, who was taken down 17 times. Appropriately Derrick got his 100th career sack off of John, and a thrilling 24-22 win over the Broncos in 1997.
What defensive player made as many big plays to preserve wins or generate points or field position for his team? When games were on the line, and the Chiefs defense was on the field, it was Derrick Thomas that his coaches, his teammates and Chiefs fans looked to for a stop and a change of the opponent's momentum. In his 11 years with the Chiefs, the Chiefs were a combined plus 120 on the turnover ratio. The second team was the New York Giants at a plus 69. And Derrick Thomas during his career was responsible for 65 of those takeaways.
In his 11 seasons with the Chiefs, the Chiefs’ defense ranked in the top 10 nine of those years. And those stats were because of the catalyst, Derrick Thomas. Those tell part of the story. Those who played against him tell even more.