Linebacker Derrick Thomas, the ferocious pass rusher and cornerstone of the Chiefs’ teams of the 1990s, was elected today to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas, who played during 1989-99 and died from injuries sustained in a January 2000 auto accident, was elected in his fifth year of eligibility.
Thomas, an All-American from the University of Alabama was the fourth overall pick of the 1989 draft. Joe Posnanski, writing for the Kansas City Star yesterday made the case for Thomas:
Well, here we go again: Writing once more why Derrick Thomas should be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s hard to write this column year after year because Derrick Thomas’ Hall of Fame credentials seem so blindingly obvious to me. It should have happened his first year of eligibility. It should have been open-and-shut.
But it wasn’t open-and-shut. Last year, for the third straight year, Thomas was a finalist but did not get into the Hall of Fame...
He made it this year.
Derrick Thomas was not perfect but I will leave his shortcomings for someone else to write about. He was much more than an outstanding football player. Former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft, speaking on the Senate floor in February, 2000:
“Yesterday, the Kansas City Chiefs' great linebacker, Derrick Thomas, died of cardiorespiratory arrest, a complication from a tragic automobile accident of January 23. The accident occurred on a snow and ice-covered stretch of Interstate 435 in Clay County, MO, as Derrick and two of his friends were headed to the airport to fly to St. Louis for the NFC championship game between St. Louis Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To Derrick's many loyal fans, the news of his death is stunning and saddening -- profoundly saddening.
“Derrick will, no doubt, enter the pantheon of Kansas City’s great athletes -- George Brett, Tom Watson, and Len Dawson, just to name a few. But Derrick's accomplishments off the field are worthy of note as well. He was that kind of special star who took all that he gained from his talents and gave back with generosity, energy, and joy to his community. Very early in his career as a Kansas City Chief, he began an inner-city reading program called the ‘Third and Long Foundation.’ As part of it, he read to children at local libraries on Saturdays when he was home in Kansas City during the season.
Thousand points of light:
“He was No. 832 among President George Bush's celebrated ‘Thousand Points of Light.’ He was named the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1993. Two years later, he received the Byron “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award from the NFL Players Association for his service to the community. In addition, he received the Genuine Heroes Award from Trinity College in Chicago.