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Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas during the 1999 NFL season.
Jersey #(s)
Born January 1, 1967(1967-01-01)
Miami, Florida
Died February 8, 2000 (aged 33)
Miami, Florida
Career information
Year(s) 19891999
NFL Draft 1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
College Alabama
Professional teams
Career stats
Tackles 642
Sacks 126.5
Interceptions 1
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

NFL Records

  • 7 sacks in 1 game

Chiefs Records

  • 45 career forced fumbles [1]
  • 8 forced fumbles in one season
  • 19 recovered fumbles
  • 126.5 career sacks
  • 20 sacks in one season
  • 3 career safties

Derrick Vincent Thomas (January 1, 1967 – February 8, 2000), nicknamed D.T., was an American football linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League. He played his entire 11-year career for 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.[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, Edith Morgan; 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

One of the finest players in Alabama history, 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 31, 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility.


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. 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.[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 will retire #58 in honor of Thomas. His number was formally retired against the Denver Broncos on December 6th.[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.

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. Derrick fathered these seven children with five different women, none of whom he married. Derrion is currently a high school football player who hopes to play college football.[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". The Kansas City Star website. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved 2009-02-01.  
  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.  
  7. ^ Gretz, Bob (November 17, 2008). "There's a New DT on the Football Radar Screen".’s-a-new-dt-on-the-football-radar-screen.html. Retrieved 2009-02-01.  
  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
Paul McGowan
Butkus Award Winner
Succeeded by
Percy Snow
Preceded by
Erik McMillan
Defensive Rookie of the Year
Succeeded by
Mark Carrier

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