NFL Hall Of Famer Derrick Thomas Was No Average Joe
On February 8, 2000, NFL fans lost one of their most noble statesmen. And for as much statistics that this gridiron hero has laid down in the history books, as a fan the only thing I still think of, until this day, was the way he died and the family, friends and legacy he left behind.
Derrick Vincent Thomas born January 1, 1967 in Miami, Florida. He was raised by his mother Edith Morgan, his father Air Force Captain Robert James Thomas died during a mission in the Vietnam War. Thomas started playing football since the tender age of three and continued through his years as South Miami Senior High School.
Thomas earn a scholarship to the University of Alabama, and went on to become one of the finest players in Alabama history. Derrick Thomas smashed many Crimson Tide defensive records, including sacks in a single season. He was awarded the Butkus Award in 1988 after a season which saw him record 27 sacks along with finishing 10th in Heisman Trophy balloting. He was also selected as a unanimous All-American at the conclusion of the 1988 season. He was awarded the Sington Soaring Spirit Award by the Lakeshore Foundation. This annual award is named for University of Alabama football legend Fred Sington.
After college, Thomas was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989 as the 4th overall pick. He played his entire 11-year career for the Chiefs after being drafted 4th overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. Thomas’s rookie year was very successful, earning him Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News, and was the first Chiefs’ linebacker to be elected to the Pro Bowl in his first season since Hall of Fame player Bobby Bell. He would appear in nine Pro Bowls during his career.
Thomas was perhaps most well known for his ability to sack the quarterback and was named an All-Pro 8 times and was voted to 9 Pro Bowls. He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career and still holds the single game record of 7 quarterback sacks, a feat which occurred against Seattle’s Dave Krieg on Veterans Day 1990 (in a 17-16 loss).
He is one of only 22 NFL players to achieve 100 or more sacks, and ranks fifth all-time in Chiefs’ history with 649 career tackles. During his career, he also recorded 1 interception and recovered 19 fumbles, returning them for 161 yards and 4 touchdowns. Thomas established Chiefs career records for sacks, safeties, fumble recoveries, and forced fumbles. His 45 forced fumbles are also an NFL career record) Off the field, Thomas established the Third and Long Foundation.
On January 23, 2000, Thomas’ 1999 Chevrolet Suburban went off Interstate 435 as he and two passengers were driving to Kansas City International Airport, where he was going to fly to St. Louis to watch the NFC Championship game; police reports indicate that Thomas, who was driving, was speeding and weaving through traffic at the time of the accident. Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the car; the passenger was killed instantly. The second passenger, who was wearing his safety belt, walked away from the scene uninjured. Thomas was left paralyzed from the chest down. He died on February 8, 2000, in Miami, of a pulmonary embolism, a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled through his venous system to his lungs.
On January 31, 2009, Derrick Thomas was one of six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He will be officially inducted at the 2009 Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. He had been a finalist for induction for four years before his induction. The Chiefs announced on June 23, 2009 that they will retire #58 in honor of Thomas. His number will be retired against the Denver Broncos on December 6th. Thomas was survived by his seven children, mother, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews. They are Burgandie, Derrick Jr., Derrion, Derrius, Robert, Micayla, and Alexa. Derrion is currently a high school football player who hopes to play college football.
Thomas’ mother established the Moms2Moms58 Foundation to honor her son’s legacy. The foundation works with professional football players, non-profit organizations, community leaders, political figures and entertainers to educate the public on car seat and seatbelt safety, children’s health and sports safety outreach to inner-city youth. Each year Moms2Moms58 hosts the “Celebration of Life Celebrity Weekend” in Derrick’s hometown of Miami, FL.
The Celebration of Life was established to honor the life and charitable works of Thomas through music, entertainment and fundraising for community enrichment programs. Moms2Moms58 and Celebration of Life are administered through 501(c)(3) status. The Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in September 2002. It serves 950 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.
DT, RIP man I miss the ESPN Higlights and the vigor you brought with your charity work. We know you are up there looking down.