Derrick Thomas: Much More Than Just a Pretty Linebacker

Chris EppsContributor IAugust 7, 2009

19 Sep 1999: Derrick Thomas #58 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates the recovered fumble during the game against the Denver Broncos at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Broncos 26-10. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport

As further proof consider this most-likely incomplete list of Thomas’ football career accolades:

Consensus All-American at the University of Alabama, 1988 Butkus Award recipient as the best linebacker in college football, University of Alabama Hall of Fame member, 1989 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, 1989 Kansas City Chiefs Mack Lee Hill Award recipient, 1990 NFL sack leader with 20.0, the fifth highest single-season total in league history, NFL single-game sack record with 7.0 against the Seattle Seahawks on November 11, 1990, voted to nine consecutive NFL Pro Bowl berths, NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team member, two-time Kansas City Chiefs Most Valuable Player in 1991 and 1994, since renamed the Derrick Thomas Award, Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame member, Arrowhead Stadium Ring of Honor member, 2009 NFL Hall of Fame inductee

His No. 58 jersey number will be retired by the Chiefs on December 6, 2009.

To Chiefs fans everywhere, the name Derrick Thomas is spoken with nearly the same respectful reverence as some the greatest all-time Kansas City Chiefs family members: Lamar Hunt, Jack Steadman, Hank Stram, Len Dawson, Mack Lee Hill, Bobby Bell, Abner Haynes, Stone Johnson, Jan Stenerud, Buck Buchanan, Willie Lanier, Otis Taylor, and Joe Delaney.

Delaney played just two seasons with the Chiefs before his untimely, but heroic death while attempting to save three boys from drowning in a pond in Louisiana in 1983. 

Much like Delaney, Thomas will be forever remembered more for his off-the-field endeavors than for any of his multitude of accomplishments between the lines playing linebacker at the University of Alabama or during his eleven stellar seasons in the NFL. His dogged efforts to improve the lives of children and families in his community garnered Thomas some of the most prestigious honors in the NFL, and from organizations around the country:

1993 Edge NFL Man of the Year Award recipient, 1993 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award recipient, 1994 Genuine Heroes Award recipient, 1995 Bryon “Whizzer” White Humanitarian Award recipient, 1999 Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall of Fame Award recipient, 832nd Point of Light of President George H. W. Bush’s “A Thousand Points of Light”, Founder of the Derrick Thomas/ Neil Smith Third and Long Foundation.

His impending induction into pro football’s Hall of Fame should be yet another opportunity for people everywhere to hear his story of philanthropy, volunteerism, and community activism. His living legacy is to inspire us all to aspire to such noble pursuits. 

Thank you, Derrick Thomas, for the countless thrills you provided us on Sundays in the NFL.

More importantly, though, thank you for the enduring humanity and boundless spirit of giving you showed us every day of your much-too-short life.