Class of 2023
AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year
Zach Thomas, a 5’11”, 235-pound linebacker out of Texas Tech, was drafted in the fifth round (154th overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. Thomas spent the majority of his 13-year career in Miami (1996-2007) before capping it with a final season in Dallas (2008).
Thomas was a versatile middle linebacker who made an immediate impact. During his rookie season, he intercepted three passes for 64 yards, had one touchdown, 131 tackles, plus 49 assisted tackles and two sacks to earn the team’s MVP honors and was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year (1996). Thomas credits his success to being well prepared. He wasn't the biggest or fastest player on the gridiron, but he always knew where the play was going.
Throughout his 12-year stretch with the Dolphins, Thomas led the team in tackles in 10 seasons and racked up 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons. He led the Dolphins to the playoffs five consecutive years (1997-2001) and amassed 22 tackles (14 solo) in the 2001 playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens.
During his career, Thomas registered 20.5 sacks and amassed 17 interceptions for 170 yards and four touchdowns – a Dolphins’ career record for interceptions returned for touchdowns. He played in 184 games including 168 starts for the Dolphins, which was the most for the team by a defensive player.
Thomas was voted first-team All-Pro five times (1998-99, 2002-03, 2006), second-team All-Pro twice (2001, 2005), was selected to seven Pro Bowls (2000-04, 2006-07) and named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He was the first player in Dolphins’ history to win the Leadership Award (voted by teammates) three times.
Additional career statistics: Kickoff returns: 2-32.
Full name: Zachary Michael Thomas
Birthdate: Sept. 1, 1973
Birthplace: Pampa, Texas
High school: White Deer (Texas); Pampa (Texas)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: Jan. 17, 2023
Other members of the Class of 2023: Rondé Barber, Don Coryell, Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko, Darrelle Revis, Ken Riley, Joe Thomas, DeMarcus Ware.
Pro career: 13 seasons, 184 games.
Drafted: Fifth round (154th overall) in 1996 by Miami Dolphins
Uniform numbers: 54 (Miami), 55 (Dallas).