The Decade's Best: Kansas City Linebacker Derrick Thomas Arrives in Canton
Football fans across Kansas City, where tailgating and barbeque are king, have already planned the menus and sent out the invites to watch parties for this Saturday's ESPN broadcast of the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
Chief fans, who for the past 20 years have developed a love/hate relationship with former general manger Carl Peterson, will have their eyes and ears glued to the television as Peterson delivers the most anticipated speech of his life.
Peterson's single greatest accomplishment in his professional career was his decision to select a linebacker from the University of Alabama in the first round of the 1989 draft. He will be coming full circle with that decision on Saturday, as he serves as the presenter in Canton, Ohio, at the enshrinement of Kansas City's greatest pass rusher, Derrick Thomas.
Peterson, who was a father figure of sorts to Thomas, has his hands full. The masterpiece that was Thomas's 11-year career will be on full display Saturday night, and it's up to Peterson to remind us how great he was.
On Saturday, Chiefs fans won't care that the Chiefs were 2-14 last year. They won't be preoccupied with how Matt Cassel and this year's team are faring at training camp in River Falls, Wis. They won't care that Scott Pioli just signed Amani Toomer to shore up the team's troubled receiving corps.
All anyone in Kansas City will care about on Saturday is celebrating No. 58. Saturday night is all about DT.
Here are just a few reasons why Thomas is a Hall of Famer, and why he will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players in Chiefs history:
116.5 sacks in the 1990s
Thomas had more sacks than any other player during the decade of the 90s.
His 11-year sack total of 126.5 is 11th all-time and is only six behind the man he's compared to the most, Lawrence Taylor.
Seven sacks in one game
On Nov. 11, 1990, Thomas broke the single-game sack record against Dave Krieg and the Seattle Seahawks, a record that still stands to this day.
Of course, Thomas always cared more about the sack that got away, when with four seconds left in the game, Krieg was able to slip out of Thomas's grasp and beat the Chiefs with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Paul Skansi.
Sack and strip
Thomas's patented speed rush and "tomahawk chop" on the passer's throwing arm when sacking the quarterback was his trademark move.
In his career, Thomas forced 45 fumbles and did his part in encouraging 78,000 Chiefs fans to chant and chop themselves into a frenzy at each home game.
Thomas and his teammates made Arrowhead Stadium one of the most difficult places to play in decade of the 1990s.
Veteran's Day flyovers at Arrowhead
When military jets flew over Arrowhead Stadium on game day, you knew Thomas was going to have a big game.
The memory of Thomas's father, a pilot who was shot down and killed in Vietnam, always seemed to bring out the best in him.
His best single-game performance, his seven sacks against the Seahawks, occurred on Veteran's Day.
Prowess against division rivals
Of his 126.5 career sacks, 73 were against opponents in the AFC West.
To the delight of Chiefs fans everywhere, Thomas's favorite sack victim was John Elway, who he sacked 17 times.
Third and Long Foundation
Thomas founded Third and Long in 1990 to help "sack illiteracy" in Kansas City's urban neighborhoods.
Former President George H.W. Bush named Thomas the "832nd point of light" for his charitable efforts. He was also named 1993 NFL Man of the Year and given the Byron "Whizzer" White Humanitarian Awared in 1995.
Thomas died on Feb. 8, 2000 as a result of injuries he sustained in an accident a couple weeks earlier—an accident in which he wasn't wearing his seatbelt.
An entire city and the NFL mourned the loss. In the weeks following his death, tens of thousands of drivers in the Kansas City metro area turned their lights on in a tribute to Thomas and a reminder to everyone to buckle up.
To this day, you can find people in the Kansas City area who never wore a seatbelt until the events following Thomas's death, but they have ever since. Even in death, Thomas was able to make a positive difference in people's lives.
Whether you choose only to remember Thomas' efforts as a humanitarian off the football field, or his ability on the field to make greats like Elway, Young, or Kelly look mortal, you will remember him.
This Saturday is about celebrating DT. And for Chief fans everywhere, it's an opportunity to look to the heavens and say "thank you" one last time for all the great memories he provided us.
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