Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas
Thomas with the Chiefs
No. 58
Position: Outside linebacker / defensive end
Personal information
Born: (1967-01-01)January 1, 1967
Miami, Florida
Died: February 8, 2000(2000-02-08) (aged 33)
Kansas City, Missouri
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 255 lb (116 kg)
Career information
High school: Miami (FL) South
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 642
Sacks: 126.5
Forced fumbles: 41
Interceptions: 1
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Derrick Vincent Thomas (January 1, 1967 – February 8, 2000), nicknamed D.T., was an American football linebacker and defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He played his entire 11-year career with the Chiefs after being drafted fourth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. Thomas, a member of the class of 2009 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.[1] In 1990, against the Seattle Seahawks, he set an NFL record with seven sacks in a single game. On February 8, 2000, Thomas died from a blood clot that developed in his paralyzed legs and traveled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. His paralysis was the result of severe injuries sustained in a car accident 16 days earlier. Thomas was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

Early life

Born in Miami, Florida, Thomas was raised by his mother. His father, Air Force Captain and B-52 pilot Robert James Thomas, died during a mission in the Vietnam War. Thomas started playing football when he was three years old, and played his high school football at South Miami Senior High School.

College career

Alongside Cornelius Bennett and later Keith McCants at Alabama, Thomas spearheaded one of the best defensive lines in college football and 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 set an NCAA record 27 sacks along with finishing 10th in Heisman Trophy balloting. He currently holds the single season NCAA FBS sack record with 27 and what was the career sack record with 52 career sacks. He was also selected as a unanimous All-American at the conclusion of the 1988 season, a season which culminated in the Crimson Tide's thrilling 29-28 victory over Army in the 1988 Sun Bowl. In 2000, Thomas was named a Sun Bowl Legend.[2] 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. Thomas was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.[3]

Professional 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.[4][5]

Thomas' rookie year earned him the Defensive Rookie of the Year award by the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America and the United Press International AFC Rookie of the Year award. He was the first Chiefs' linebacker to be elected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie since Hall of Fame player Bobby Bell.

Thomas was known for his ability to sack the quarterback and was named a First Team All-Pro two times, Second Team All-Pro four times, and was voted to nine Pro Bowls in his 11-year career.[6] He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career,[7] and as of the start of the 2017 NFL season, holds the single game record of seven quarterback sacks, a feat which occurred against Seattle's Dave Krieg on 1990 Veterans Day[8]. Ironically, it was a sack that Thomas did not get that decided the game: on the final play, Krieg eluded a blitzing Thomas and threw a touchdown pass to Paul Skansi, which gave the Seahawks a 17–16 win. The next player to come close to breaking this record was Thomas himself, recording 6 sacks against the Oakland Raiders in the regular season opener in 1998.[9]

He is one of 32 NFL players to achieve 100 or more sacks, and ranks as the Chiefs' all-time sack leader with 126.5. Thomas is also the seventh all-time tackler in Chiefs' history with 642 career tackles. During his career, he 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.[10]

In 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility.[11]


1989KC 161675561910.003100000000
1990KC 151563471620.0062140000000
1991KC 161579601913.5044231000000
1992KC 161667541314.508301000001
1993KC 16154332118.0041861000000
1994KC 16157167411.0133110000003
1995KC 1515534858.002100000004
1996KC 16145549613.004100100005
1997KC 1210343049.513000000000
1998KC 15104235712.0122271000001
1999KC 1616605467.002100012020.005


On January 23, 2000, Thomas' 1999 Chevrolet Suburban went off Interstate 435 as he and two passengers were driving to Kansas City International Airport during a snowstorm for a flight to St. Louis to watch the NFC Championship Game. Police reports indicated that Thomas, who was driving, was speeding at approximately 100 m.p.h. even though snow and ice were rapidly accumulating on the roadway. Thomas continued weaving erratically through traffic as he caused the accident.[12] 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. By early February, Thomas was being treated at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. The morning of February 8, 2000, while being transferred from his hospital bed to a wheelchair on his way to therapy, Thomas told his mother he was not feeling well. His eyes then rolled back, recalled Frank Eismont, an orthopedic surgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Eismont said Thomas went into cardiorespiratory arrest and died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, a massive blood clot that developed in his legs and traveled to his lungs.[13] Months later, Thomas' family sued General Motors for $73 million in damages stemming from the accident that Thomas caused. In 2004, a jury ruled that the family was not entitled to any money.[14]


In 1990, Thomas founded the Derrick Thomas Third and Long Foundation. The foundation's mission is to "sack illiteracy" and change the lives of 9- to 13-year-old urban children facing challenging and life-threatening situations in the Kansas City area.

On January 31, 2009, Thomas was named among six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[15] He was officially posthumously inducted in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009, after four years as a finalist in the Hall of Fame voting. [16] The Chiefs announced on June 23, 2009 that they would retire #58 in honor of Thomas, and the retirement ceremony took place on December 6, 2009 when the Chiefs played the Denver Broncos.[17]

The Derrick Thomas Academy, a charter school in Kansas City, Missouri, opened in September 2002. It served nearly 1,000 children from kindergarten through eighth grade until it closed in 2013.[18]

The Chiefs named their player of the year award in Thomas' honor.


  1. "Top 10 pass rushers in NFL history". October 7, 2008. Archived from the original on February 6, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
  3. National Football Foundation (2014-05-22). "NFF Proudly Announces Impressive 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class". Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  4. National Football League. "NFL Draft History - 1989". National Football League. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  5. National Football League. "Derrick Thomas Player Profile". National Football League. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  6. Pro Football Reference. "Derrick Thomas". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  7. Pro Football Reference. "Derrick Thomas". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  8. Sports Illustrated. "Most NFL Single Game Sacks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  9. Sports Illustrated. "Most NFL Single Game Sacks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  10. Kansas City Chiefs. "2017 Kansas Chiefs Media Guide" (PDF). Kansas City Chiefs. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  11. NBC Sports. "2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  12. "Chiefs' Thomas dead at 33". Associated Press. February 8, 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  13. "Blood Clot Killed Thomas, Doctors Say". Associated Press. February 10, 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  14. "Thomas family sought $73M in suit". August 17, 2004. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  15. Covitz, Randy (January 31, 2008). "Derrick Thomas elected to Hall of Fame.His son accepted the award in the hall of fame for Derrick Thomas". The Kansas City Star website. The McClatchy Company. Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  16. "Hall of Famers: Yearly Finalists". Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  17. "LB Derrick Thomas Will Have His #58 Retired, Family to Receive HOF Ring at Arrowhead vs. Denver on December 6th". Kansas City Chiefs Website. Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
  18. Koepp, Paul (2013-07-24). "Closing of Derrick Thomas Academy leaves legal mess". Kansas City Business Journal. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
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