American Football Database
For those of a similar name, see Derek Thomas (disambiguation) and Thomas Derrick (disambiguation).
Derrick Thomas
File:Derrick Thomas Chiefs portrait photo.jpg
Derrick Thomas with the Kansas City Chiefs.
No. 58     
Linebacker/Defensive End
Personal information
Date of birth: (1967-01-01)January 1, 1967
Place of birth: Miami, Florida
Date of death: February 8, 2000(2000-02-08) (aged 33)
Place of death: Miami, Florida
High School: Miami (FL) South
Career information
College: Alabama
NFL Draft: 1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
Debuted in 1989 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Last played in 1999 for the Kansas City Chiefs
Career history
Career highlights and awards

NFL Records

  • 7 sacks in 1 game

Chiefs Records

  • 41 career forced fumbles
  • 8 forced fumbles in one season
  • 19 recovered fumbles
  • 126.5 career sacks
  • 20 sacks in one season
  • 3 career safeties
Tackles     642
Sacks     126.5
Interceptions     1
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Derrick Vincent Thomas (January 1, 1967 – February 8, 2000), nicknamed D.T., was an American football linebacker and defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He played his entire 11-year career for the Chiefs after being drafted fourth 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. 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

Alongside Cornelius Bennett and later Keith McCants, Thomas spearheaded one of the best defensive lines in college football and 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 set an NCAA record 27 sacks along with finishing 10th in Heisman Trophy balloting. He currently holds the single season NCAA FBS sack record with 27 and what was the career sack record with 52 career sacks. He was also selected as a unanimous All-American at the conclusion of the 1988 season, a season which culminated in the Crimson Tide's thrilling 29-28 victory over Army in the 1988 Sun Bowl. In 2000, Thomas was named a Sun Bowl Legend.[2] 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.

Professional 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 9 times and was voted to 9 Pro Bowls in his 10 year career. He totaled 126.5 sacks in his career, ranking 12th all-time in NFL history, and still holds the single game record of 7 quarterback sacks, a feat which occurred against Seattle's Dave Krieg on Veterans Day, 1990. Ironically, it was a sack that Thomas didn't get that decided the game: on the final play, Krieg eluded a blitzing Thomas and threw a touchdown pass to give the Seahawks a 17-16 win. The next player to come close to breaking this record was Thomas himself, recording 6 sacks against the Oakland Raiders in the regular season opener in 1998.

He is one of only 25 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. Off the field, Thomas established the Third and Long Foundation in 1990, which helps inner city youth learn to read and teaches life skills through educational and cultural programs.

On January 31, 2009, Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility.


1989 22 Kansas City 16 16 75 56 19 10.0 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1990 23 Kansas City 15 15 63 47 16 20.0 0 6 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1991 24 Kansas City 16 15 79 60 19 13.5 0 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
1992 25 Kansas City 16 16 67 54 13 14.5 0 8 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
1993 26 Kansas City 16 15 43 32 11 8.0 0 4 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
1994 27 Kansas City 16 15 71 67 4 11.0 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
1995 28 Kansas City 15 15 53 48 5 8.0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
1996 29 Kansas City 16 14 55 49 6 13.0 0 4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 5
1997 30 Kansas City 12 10 34 30 4 9.5 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1998 31 Kansas City 15 10 42 35 7 12.0 1 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
1999 32 Kansas City 16 16 60 54 6 7.0 0 2 1 0 0 1 20 20.0 0 5
Career 169 157 642 532 110 126.5 3 41 19 1 4 1 20 20.0 0 19


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 at approximately 100 m.p.h. even though snow and ice were accumulating on the roadway. Thomas continued weaving erratically through traffic until the time of the accident.[3] Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts and both were thrown from the car; the passenger was killed instantly. The second passenger, who was wearing his safety belt, walked away from the scene uninjured. Thomas was left paralyzed from the chest down. By early February, Thomas was being treated at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. The morning of February 8, 2000, while being transferred from his hospital bed to a wheelchair on his way to therapy, Thomas told his mother he was not feeling well. His eyes then rolled back, recalled Frank Eismont, an orthopedic surgeon at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Eismont said Thomas went into cardio-respiratory arrest and died as a result of a pulmonary embolism; a massive blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled through his venous system to his lungs.[4] Months later, Thomas' mother, Edith Morgan, his seven children and their five mothers sued General Motors in an attempt to make them take financial responsibility for the accident that Thomas caused, seeking at least $73 million. In 2004, a jury ruled the family was not entitled to any money.[5]


In 1990 Derrick Thomas founded the Derrick Thomas Third and Long Foundation. The foundations mission is to 'sack illiteracy' and change the lives of 9 to 13 year old urban children facing challenging and even life-threatening situations in the Kansas City area. Through social, cultural and educational activities and programs, the Third and Long Foundation. helps participating children succeed in school and in an outside world possessing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

On January 31, 2009, Derrick Thomas was one of six players selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[6] He was officially inducted in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009. He had been a finalist for induction for four years before his induction.[7] The Chiefs announced on June 23, 2009 that they would retire #58 in honor of Thomas, and the retirement ceremony took place on December 6, 2009 when the Chiefs played the Denver Broncos.[8]

Thomas's 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 served nearly 1,000 children from kindergarten through eighth grade until it closed in 2013.

The Chiefs have named their player of the year award in Thomas's honor. Notable winners of the Derrick Thomas award include Derrick Thomas himself, Christian Okoye, Neil Smith, Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Larry Johnson, Jared Allen, Tony Gonzalez, and Jamaal Charles. (Thomas, Okoye, Smith, and Allen won the award prior to the award being named for him)

Country music singer Hank Williams, Jr., on his "Almeria Club" album, did a song called "Cross on the Highway", in memory of Thomas, as well as Mike Tellis, who was a passenger in the January 2000 accident. Williams was friends with both Thomas and Tellis.

Personal life

Derrick Thomas was survived by his children, Burgandie, Derrick Jr., Derrion, Derrius, Donnell[9] Robert, Micayla, Alexa, as well as his mother, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews. Derrion attended Blue Springs South High School, in Blue Springs, Mo., graduating in 2009. Shortly after committing to Missouri, he announced that would be attending Longview Community College in Lee's Summit, Missouri to work on his GPA. After leaving Longview, he walked on to the Missouri football team.

Daughter Alexa Harmon-Thomas is a Kansas State High School Activities Association state champion hurdler for Lawrence Free State High School, his other son Derrius, is currently playing basketball and is a Georgia Christian Athletic Association state champion.


  1. "Top 10 pass rushers in NFL history". October 7, 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  3. "Chiefs' Thomas dead at 33". Associated Press. February 8, 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  4. "Blood Clot Killed Thomas, Doctors Say". Associated Press. February 10, 2000. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  5. "Thomas family sought $73M in suit". August 17, 2004. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
  6. Covitz, Randy (January 31, 2008). "Derrick Thomas elected to Hall of Fame.His son accepted the award in the hall of fame for Derrick Thomas". The Kansas City Star website. The McClatchy Company. Retrieved 2009-02-01.[dead link]
  7. "Hall of Famers: Yearly Finalists". Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  8. "LB Derrick Thomas Will Have His #58 Retired, Family to Receive HOF Ring at Arrowhead vs. Denver on December 6th". Kansas City Chiefs Website. Retrieved 2009-06-23.[dead link]
  9. "Donnell Alexander Bio". Colorado State University. Retrieved 30 March 2014.

External links