Derrick Thomas

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Derrick Vincent Thomas (born January 1, 1967 in Miami, Florida - died February 8, 2000 in Miami) was a linebacker for the Alabama Crimson Tide and the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. He spent his entire 11-year professional career with the Chiefs after being drafted 4th overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. Thomas, part of the class of 2009 entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a premier football player throughout the 1990s and is considered one of the best pass rushers of all-time. He died from injuries sustained in a car accident.

Early life

Born in Miami, Florida, Thomas was raised by his mother, Edith Morgan; his father, Air Force Captain and pilot Robert James Thomas, died during "Operation Linebacker II" in the Vietnam War. Thomas started playing football when he was three years old. He played high school football at South Miami Senior High School.

College career

Wearing #55, 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.

NFL career

Thomas was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft, fourth overall, and was signed by the Chiefs. He would remain with the Chiefs for his entire career.

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 seatbelt, 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.

Because he had been working on completing his degree and had achieved a requisite number of credits, the University of Alabama awarded him his bachelor's degree in criminal justice posthumously. His mother, grandmother and former coach Marty Schottenheimer all attended the ceremony.

Thomas, who was not married, was survived by seven children: Burgandie, Derrick Jr, Derrion, Derrius, Robert, Micayla, and Alexa. Because he left no will, the children's mothers filed suit in probate court for a share of his $1.16 million in assets, touching off a lengthy court battle.


On January 31, 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility. 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 on December 6.

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 Miami. The Celebration of Life was established to honor the life and charitable works of Thomas through music, entertainment and fundraising for community enrichment programs.

The Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in September 2002. It serves 950 children from kindergarten through eighth grade.


  • "Derrick Thomas." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 29 Jul 2009, 14:42 UTC. 29 Jul 2009 [1]
  • Tucker, Doug (August 3, 2009) "Hall of Fame to induct late Derrick Thomas." Tuscaloosa News

External links