Thurman Thomas
Thomas answering guest questions at ESPN The Weekend on February 26, 2010
No. 34     
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1966-05-16) May 16, 1966 (age 54)
Place of birth: Houston, Texas
High School: Houston (TX) Willowridge
Career information
College: Oklahoma State
NFL Draft: 1988 / Round: 2 / Pick: 40
Debuted in 1988 for the Buffalo Bills
Last played in 2000 for the Miami Dolphins
Career history
Career highlights and awards

High School



Rushing yards     12,074
Average     4.2
Touchdowns     88
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame

Thurman Lee Thomas (born May 16, 1966) is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back who spent most of his National Football League (NFL) career with the Buffalo Bills. Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

Thomas was an important part of the Bills "no-huddle offense" that won 4 consecutive AFC championships, but the Bills fell in the Super Bowl every year.

Early yearsEdit

Thomas was born in Houston, Texas. He grew up playing football on the Missouri City Junior High School (now Missouri City Middle School) and Willowridge High School.

College careerEdit

Thomas attended college at Oklahoma State University where he was a teammate of running back Barry Sanders. At Oklahoma State, Thomas had 897 rushes for 4,595 yards, 43 touchdowns, 5,146 total yards, and 21 100-yard rushing games. He was also a Heisman Trophy candidate in his senior year, finishing seventh in voting.[1] He was a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in 1985[2] and 1987.

In the 1987 Sun Bowl, Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-33 victory over West Virginia, keeping freshman Barry Sanders on the sidelines for the majority of the game. Thomas left OSU as the school's all-time leading rusher and his number 34 is one of only three jerseys retired at Oklahoma State.[3]

Professional careerEdit

A knee injury damaged Thomas's certain first round pick status and caused him to slip into second round (40th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, their first choice in the draft. Thomas is well known as part of the offense that included Jim Kelly and Andre Reed, which led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances.

Thomas was the AFC rushing leader in 1990, 1991, and 1993. In the first three seasons of his career, Thomas had a total of 12 games with at least 100 yards rushing. The Bills won every one of those games. In 1989 and 1990, his combined total yards from scrimmage was 3,742. This was more than 200 yards better than any other player in the NFL. He was voted to the All-Pro team in 1990 and 1991, was selected to 5 straight Pro Bowls from 1989–1993, and was named NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1991, after becoming the 11th player in NFL history to finish a season with over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Currently, he is 12th on the NFL all-time list for most rushing yards in a career.

Thomas currently holds the all-time Buffalo Bills rushing record with 11,938 yards and the team record for yards from scrimmage with 16,279 over 12 years. He is also 4th overall in team scoring. Overall, Thomas finished his 13 seasons (his 13th season he played for Miami) with 12,074 rushing yards, 472 receptions for 4,458 yards, and 88 touchdowns (65 rushing and 23 receiving) with 16,532 total yards from scrimmage.

Thomas is the only player in NFL history to lead the league in total yards from scrimmage for four consecutive seasons. He is one of only six running backs to have over 400 receptions and 10,000 yards rushing. Walter Payton, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, Tiki Barber, and LaDainian Tomlinson are the other five. Thomas is also one of five running backs to have rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 consecutive seasons along with Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Tomlinson.

Thomas also set NFL playoff records with the most career points (126), touchdowns (21), and consecutive playoff games with a touchdown (9). Overall, he rushed for 1,442 yards and caught 76 passes for 672 yards in his 21 postseason games. In a 1989 playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, Thomas recorded 13 receptions for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, which was a postseason record for receptions by a running back and tied tight end Kellen Winslow's record for most receptions in a playoff game. At the time of his retirement, his 76 postseason receptions ranked him 4th all time, and to this day he remains the only running back among the NFL's top 10 leaders in that category.

Thurman Thomas played for the Buffalo Bills for 12 seasons. When the Bills ran out of money under their salary cap in 2000, Thomas signed with the arch-rival Miami Dolphins. He suffered a knee injury on November 12, 2000 against the San Diego Chargers which ended his NFL career. After deciding to retire, Thurman signed a one-day contract on February 27, 2001 with Buffalo so that he could retire as a Bill.

Thurman Thomas was first eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. In that year, he made it to the list of ten finalists, but was not one of the six players elected to the Hall that year. He was selected on February 3, 2007, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Super Bowl XXVEdit

Thomas had an outstanding performance in Super Bowl XXV, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 5 passes for 55 yards. He would have almost certainly won the Super Bowl MVP award, but his team lost the game 20-19 when kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal attempt with 8 seconds remaining.

Some fans and sports writers, such as Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman[1], have argued that Thomas had the best performance of the game, so therefore he should have won the MVP award even though his team lost. He had far more yards and catches than New York Giants running back Ottis Anderson, who won the MVP, finishing the game with 102 rushing yards, 1 reception for 7 yards, and a touchdown. Also a player winning the Super Bowl MVP award on a losing team is not unprecedented; Chuck Howley accomplished this feat in Super Bowl V.

His performance in the Bills other posteseason games that year were also superb. He rushed for a total of 255 yards, caught 8 passes for 99 yards, and scored 3 touchdowns in their 2 playoff games prior to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XXVIEdit

Thomas is noted for a mishap in Super Bowl XXVI. Thomas had a pre-game ritual where he placed his helmet at the 34-yard line. His helmet was moved in order for the stage to be set up for Harry Connick, Jr. to perform the national anthem. This caused Thomas to miss Buffalo's first two offensive plays.[4] He went on to gain just 13 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He also caught 4 passes for 27 yards. On August 8, 2009, during teammate Bruce Smith's Hall of Fame induction speech, while he was acknowledging his relationship with Thomas, Bruce proclaimed "I hid your helmet!". Following the ceremony on NFL Total Access, Bruce indicated this was merely a joke.

Super Bowl XXVIIEdit

For the second year in a row, Thomas had a dismal performance in the Super Bowl. He scored the first points of the game for his team on a 2-yard touchdown run, but was limited to just 19 rushing yards on 11 carries and 4 receptions for 10 yards in Buffalo's 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He also committed a costly fumble that was converted into a Dallas touchdown.

However, Thomas was still recovering from a hip injury he suffered in the first game of the postseason. As a result, running back Kenneth Davis got the majority of carries in the game.

Super Bowl XXVIIIEdit

Thomas had yet another disappointing Super Bowl performance in this game, which the Bills lost to the Cowboys 30-13. He scored the only touchdown of the game for his team, but was limited to just 37 rushing yards on 16 carries. He was a reliable target as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 7 passes for 52 yards but he lost 2 fumbles that led to 10 Dallas points. The second fumble came at the start of the second half, and it was returned for a game tying touchdown that swung the momentum for the Cowboys.

Pro Football Hall of FameEdit

On February 3, 2007, Thomas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas joined his former quarterback Jim Kelly and wide receiver James Lofton in the Hall. Thomas was enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the weekend of August 4–5, 2007.


Thomas moved back to Buffalo in 2007 with his wife, Patti and three daughters, Olivia, Angel, and Annika, and one son, Thurman III. He is the President and CEO of Thurman Thomas Sports Training in Elma, New York. His oldest daughter, Olivia, attends school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. [2]

In 2008, Thomas acquired a share of the Rochester Raiders indoor football team, and will also be collaborating with the other Raiders owners to bring an af2 team to Buffalo in 2009. The ownership group is also said to be recruiting Jim Kelly as a part-owner of the Buffalo franchise.

In 2010, Thomas started his own energy company, the Thurman Thomas Global Energy Group.

In 2010, Thomas made phone calls in support of New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. Thomas, a registered Republican, has no stated desire to run for office himself, as he feels that such a move would prompt inquiries into his personal life that he feels are disrespectful.[5]


  1. 1987 Heisman voting
  2. Thomas also finished 10th in Heisman voting in 1985, 1985 Heisman Trophy Voting
  3. Barry Sanders would replace Thomas as starter the next year in 1988, rushing for an NCAA record 2,638 yards and 39 touchdowns.
  4. Oklahoma State's Thurman Thomas Still Living Down Super Bowl Gaffe -
  5. Pro-Paladino Former Buffalo Bill NOT Mulling Higgins Challenge (Updated). State of Politics. Retrieved March 21, 2012.

External linksEdit

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