Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas during the 1999 NFL season.
No. 58     
Linebacker/Defensive End
Personal information
Date of birth: January 1, 1967(1967-01-01)
Miami, Florida
Date of death: February 8, 2000(2000-02-08) (aged 33)
Miami, Florida
Career information
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Debuted in 1989 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Last played in 1999 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Career history
Career highlights and awards

NFL Records

  • 7 sacks in 1 game

Chiefs Records

  • 41 career forced fumbles
  • 8 forced fumbles in one season
  • 19 recovered fumbles
  • 126.5 career sacks
  • 20 sacks in one season
  • 3 career safeties
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

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 for the Chiefs after being drafted fourth 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.[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 massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled to his lungs. His paralysis was the result of severe injuries sustained in a car accident weeks earlier.


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. He played high school football at South Miami Senior High School.

College career

Alongside Cornelius Bennett, 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 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. 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 9 times and was voted to 9 Pro Bowls. He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career, ranking 12th all-time in NFL history, and still holds the single game record of 7 quarterback sacks, breaking his own previous NFL record of 6, a feat which occurred against Seattle's Dave Krieg on Veterans Day, 1990. Ironically, it was the sack that Thomas didn't get that decided the game: on the last play, Krieg eluded a blitzing Thomas and threw a touchdown pass to give the Seahawks a 17-16 win.

He is one of only 25 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. Off the field, Thomas established the Third and Long Foundation in 1990, which helps inner city youth learn to read and teaches life skills through educational and cultural programs.

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


1989 22 Kansas City 16 16 75 56 19 10.0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1990 23 Kansas City 15 15 63 47 16 20.0 0 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1991 24 Kansas City 16 15 79 60 19 13.5 0 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
1992 25 Kansas City 16 16 67 54 13 14.5 0 8 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
1993 26 Kansas City 16 15 43 32 11 8.0 0 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
1994 27 Kansas City 16 15 71 67 4 11.0 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
1995 28 Kansas City 15 15 53 48 5 8.0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
1996 29 Kansas City 16 14 55 49 6 13.0 0 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
1997 30 Kansas City 12 10 34 30 4 9.5 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1998 31 Kansas City 15 10 42 35 7 12.0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
1999 32 Kansas City 16 16 60 54 6 7.0 0 2 0 0 0 1 20 20.0 0 5
Career 169 157 642 532 110 126.5 3 41 16 1 4 1 20 20.0 0 19


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, 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.[2] Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the car; the passenger was killed immediately. 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 the Chiefs star went into cardio-respiratory arrest and died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled through his venous system to his lungs.[3]


On January 31, 2009, Derrick Thomas was one of six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[4] He was officially inducted in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009. He had been a finalist for induction for four years before his induction.[5] 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.[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 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.

He is one of 79 players on the ballot for College Football Hall of Fame.

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

Personal life

Derrick Thomas was survived by his seven children, Burgandie, Derrick Jr., Derrion, Derrius, Robert, Micayla, and Alexa, as well as his mother, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews. Son Derrion attended Blue Springs South High School, in Blue Springs, MO., graduating in 2009, opting to play college football at the University of Missouri rather than his father’s alma mater the University of Alabama. Shortly after committing to Missouri, he announced that would be attending Longview Community College in Lee's Summit, MO to work on his GPA. His commitment will still be honored.[7]

At the time of Thomas' death, he left no will, and the children's mothers filed suit with the probate court for a share of his $1.16 million in assets, touching off a lengthy court battle.[8]


  1. ^ "Top 10 pass rushers in NFL history". October 7, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  2. ^ "Chiefs' Thomas dead at 33". Associated Press. February 8, 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  3. ^ "Blood Clot Killed Thomas, Doctors Say". Associated Press. February 10, 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  4. ^ 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. Retrieved 2009-02-01. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Hall of Famers: Yearly Finalists". Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 
  6. ^ "LB Derrick Thomas Will Have His #58 Retired, Family to Receive HOF Ring at Arrowhead vs. Denver on December 6th". Kansas City Chiefs Website. Retrieved 2009-06-23. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Derrion Thomas Puts Off MU For 1 Year". July 31, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-06. 
  8. ^ "Family of Former KC Chief Thomas Look to Court to Divide Estate". Jet Magazine. Johnson Publishing Co.. September 18, 2000. Retrieved 2009-02-01. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Erik McMillan
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Succeeded by
Mark Carrier

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