This week marks the 16th anniversary of the passing away of Derrick Thomas, one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history. He was involved in an eventually fatal accident on the 23rd of January which left him paralyzed. He then passed on February 8th due to a massive blood clot, leaving behind nine children. Thomas was 33 years old but this isn’t about his death, it’s about his life. Thomas was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and is the only player in NFL history to record seven sacks in a single game.
Remembering Kansas City Chiefs Legend Derrick Thomas
Thomas was drafted fourth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989. That draft featured four future Hall of Famers out of the first five picks: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. The Green Bay Packers selected Tony Mandarich second overall, now regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL history. While at the University of Alabama, Derrick Thomas received the Butkus Award when he set an NCAA record 27 sacks during the 1988 season. Most of Thomas’ records are not officially recorded since the NCAA did not start collecting actual official defensive stats until about the year 2000. He still holds the NCAA record for sacks in one season.
He would then be drafted by the Chiefs where he would play his entire NFL career. He was named the defensive rookie of the year in 1989. A year ater, the Chiefs played the Seahawks on Veterans Day. Thomas recorded seven sacks in that game, a NFL record that has yet to be eclipsed to this day. However, it was the eighth sack that he missed which would allow Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg to throw a touchdown pass and win the game. This missed sack haunted Thomas. A player has come close to breaking this record, recording six sacks in a game against the Raiders in 1998. This player was also Derrick Thomas.
Thomas would go on to set numerous Chiefs records; 41 forced fumbles, eight forced fumbles in one season, 19 recovered fumbles, 126.5 career sacks and 3 career safeties. The Chiefs would later retire his number 58 jersey in 2009, the same year he was inducted into Pro Football’s Hall of Fame. He is the only Chief that played after the 1970s to have his number retired.
The Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller, wears number 58 as a tribute to Derrick Thomas. The Chiefs and Broncos might be fierce division rivals and hate each other with a passion but Miller has always been a huge fan of DT and respects him. It is one of the highest honors in the NFL for a player to be compared to Derrick Thomas. When Dee Ford was drafted to the Kansas City Chiefs, he chose to wear number 55 since that was Thomas’ number at Alabama and the Chiefs had already retired Thomas’ pro number. Ford even went to college at Auburn, Alabama’s biggest rival, but he chose it because DT inspired him.
Thomas is the embodiment of that quote from The Sandlot: “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Derrick Thomas will always live on as long as there are athletes willing to learn about NFL History. He may be gone but his legend will always live on. We will always miss you DT, R.I.P.