Derrick Thomas Kansas City Chiefs
"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.''
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.