Remembering Derrick Thomas

Afternoon Addicts. Now that the Super Bowl is over we will be getting in to fill on offseason mode around here. We’ll be bringing you all the Chiefs news and views we can in the coming weeks as we approach the combine and the draft.

Today, however, is the 10 year anniversery of the death of Chiefs great Derrick Thomas. It would be great if we could all take the time to remember Derrick and his family today. I’ve put a post together in honor of Derrick. Feel free to use the comments to remember him and his incredible play in your own way. Go Chiefs!

One Thomas, Derrick of Alabama, edged another Thomas, Broderick of Nebraska, to win the Butkus Award as the nation’s outstanding college linebacker yesterday.

Derrick Thomas, a 6-foot-4-inch outside linebacker who has 22 sacks this season, received 2 more points in the voting by a 12-member selection panel of the Downtown Athletic Club in Orlando, Fla., than Broderick Thomas, who is not related.

The New York Times

Derrick Thomas set a National Football League record today with seven quarterback sacks, but could only agonize over the one that got away.

As time expired, Seattle’s Dave Krieg wriggled free of Thomas and heaved a desperation 25-yard touchdown pass to Paul Skansi in the end zone. Norm Johnson booted the extra point to give the Seahawks a 17-16 victory over the stunned Kansas City Chiefs.

“I thought I had him,” said Thomas, a linebacker who won the A.F.C. defensive Rookie of the Year award last season. “He just stumbled back and caught his balance and threw the pass. That last sack I didn’t get is the one I’m going to remember.”

The New York Times

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker DERRICK THOMAS, the National Football Leader’s sack leader the past four seasons, has agreed to a series of contracts that will keep him with the team for four more years.

Neither Thomas nor CARL PETERSON, the team’s president and general manager, would reveal financial details of the deal. Peterson would not say if the contracts had actually been signed. Thomas, who had been a restricted free agent, had 58 sacks over the past four seasons. He tied defensive end NEIL SMITH for the team lead last season with 14.5.

The New York Times

DERRICK THOMAS, the Kansas City Chiefs’ All-Pro linebacker, said yesterday that he just wanted to live up to the courage of the father he never knew, a co-pilot who was killed during the Vietnam War.

“It’s very ironic that my father’s last mission was named Linebacker 2,” said Thomas, who was among the speakers who joined PRESIDENT CLINTON at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. “It’s very ironic that in college I had 52 sacks and my father flew a B-52.”

“I was bitter for a long time,” said the 26-year-old Thomas, who was 5 when his father, Robert James Thomas, died. “I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to find out what kind of man my father actually was.”

The New York Times

The Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Thomas was suspended for Sunday’s game in San Diego and linebacker Wayne Simmons was waived today, a day after the Kansas City Chiefs’ owner, Lamar Hunt, said their actions ”disgraced this organization as well as the community.”

Thomas, Simmons and defensive end Chester McGlockton drew a total of five personal-foul penalties in a breakdown of self-control Monday night in the final minutes of Denver’s 30-7 victory.

The New York Times

Derrick Thomas, a nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, was seriously injured in a one-car accident on an icy road in Kansas City, Mo., yesterday afternoon that killed one of his close friends.

Television reports said the 33-year-old Thomas, one of the National Football League’s most dominant defensive players, broke his back. But a team spokesman and a spokeswoman at Liberty Hospital north of Kansas City declined to confirm that.

The New York Times

Derrick Thomas, the lightning-quick linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, was flown from Missouri to a hospital in Florida yesterday with his spine fractured in two places, his legs paralyzed and the hopes of continuing his 10-year career in doubt, the Chiefs said yesterday.

”It’s obviously a very severe injury,” Carl Peterson, the team’s president, said in a news conference in Kansas City.

Thomas, who is 33, was injured Sunday afternoon when he lost control of his car on an icy stretch of Interstate 435 north of Kansas City, skidded onto a median and flipped over at least twice, the Missouri Highway Patrol said.

Thomas and a friend, Michael D. Tellis, were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the car. Tellis, 49, died at the scene. A third passenger, John C. Hagebusch, 34, walked away from the accident with minor injuries. He had been wearing a seat belt in the back seat.

The New York Times

After four and a half hours of surgery here late Monday to stabilize Derrick Thomas’s spinal cord and repair several vertebrae, the Kansas City Chiefs’ nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker remained paralyzed from the chest down, and doctors could offer no assurance today that he would be able to walk again.

”He understands the importance of really the next few weeks as far as how things are going to be going for him,” said Frank J. Eismont, an orthopedic surgeon who operated on Thomas with Barth A. Green, a neurosurgeon, at Jackson Memorial Medical Center. Green said that Thomas’s spinal cord was severely bruised and not severed, as had been feared.

Eismont added: ”We also explained to him that there are a lot of things we won’t be able to give answers to. We have to see how things progress over time”

The New York Times

To the Editor:

For most people reading about the accident involving Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs, all they will retain from news accounts is that Thomas is paralyzed from the chest down, a second man is dead and a third man sustained no serious injury (Sports pages, Jan. 26).

The real story, the one that will allow some benefit to come from the tragedy, is that Thomas and the man who was killed were not wearing seat belts, so that when the car rolled several times they were thrown out. The third man, who wore his seat belt, wasn’t seriously hurt.

A lesson could be learned.


The New York Times

Derrick Thomas was speeding and weaving in traffic before a deadly car crash, the police said, but he will not face charges.

The prosecutor Don Norris said yesterday that there was insufficient evidence to charge the 33-year-old Chiefs linebacker, who is paralyzed from the chest down.

Thomas’s Chevrolet Suburban slid off a Missouri highway and rolled at least three times in the median during an afternoon snowstorm Jan. 23 as Thomas was driving toward Kansas City International Airport to catch a flight for a St. Louis Rams playoff game

This letter was written by Derrick Thomas on Sunday, February 6, 2000

The New York Times

I wish that there were enough words in the human language to express my sincere gratitude and heartfelt thanks for all of the well wishes, cards, letters, words of encouragement and prayers that I have received. I would also like to thank everyone who has made donations to my Third and Long Foundation, as well as anyone who has made a donation on my behalf to Spinal Cord Injury Research.

I wish that I could thank each and every one of you individually, but that would be nearly impossible.

I would also like everyone to know that I am going to be just fine. Please continue to keep me in your prayers, because an old friend of mine has told me, “When prayers go up, blessings are sure to come down.”

Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Pro Bowl linebacker known for his ferocious play on the field and his charity work off it, died unexpectedly yesterday morning in a Miami hospital, 16 days after a car crash had left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Doctors said Thomas suffered from cardiorespiratory arrest while being transferred from his bed to a wheelchair on his way to a therapy session.

The New York Times 

A shaken Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham recalled telephoning Thomas at the Miami hospital from the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Hawaii, after seeing players and fans honoring Thomas by wearing his number. Thomas had not been selected for this year’s game.

“Derrick said, ‘Coach, be strong.’ He never told me how strong I needed to be,” Cunningham said.

“He was upbeat, he was positive, he was Derrick,” a tearful Peterson, wearing a button with Thomas’ No. 58, said from Arrowhead Stadium.

“He was in a wheelchair. … I said ‘Son, you’re mobile.’ He said, ‘Father, I am. I’ve got wheels.'”

An autopsy on Derrick Thomas this morning showed that the nine-time Pro Bowl linebacker died of a blood clot in an artery between his heart and lungs.

Dr. Barth Green — the neurosurgeon who along with Dr. Frank Eismont had operated on Thomas on Jan. 24 for a spinal cord injury that had left him paralyzed from the chest down — said after attending the autopsy that the blood clot was pervasive.

”It was what is called a saddle embolus,” Green said. ”It rides out bilaterally to both sides of the lungs and totally blocks the major vessels and pathways to the lungs, making it impossible to oxidize or for the heart to work.”

The New York Times

From the program at Thomas funeral services on February 15, 2000 in Kansas City

January 1, 1967, as the fireworks graced the skies off a new year, a unique star entered the universe…Derrick Vincent Thomas. The spirit of Edith Belim and Robert James Thomas came together in this baby boy, 7lbs, 11oz – a child of destiny, determination and strength.

Derrick was educated in the Dade County Public School System. He also attended Dade Marine Institute where he learned scuba and deep sea diving, as well as other life skills. He excelled in this program, completing it in record time.

Derrick graduated in 1985 from South Miami High School where he lettered in wrestling and football.

Derrick received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Here, he far exceeded anyone’s expectations. He became one of the all-time greatest linebackers in Alabama team history. In 1989, he was a number one draft pick for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In Kansas City, he excelled on the field as well as off. In 1990, he founded The Derrick Thomas Third and Long Reading Club designed to help battle illiteracy in inner-city children ages 9-13.

Derrick Thomas, the late Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, will receive a posthumous bachelor’s degree Saturday from the University of Alabama.

The Chiefs said yesterday that Thomas’s mother, Edith Morgan, and grandmother, Annie Adams, will accept the bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice and social welfare in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Thomas, 33, died Feb. 8 from injuries sustained in a Jan. 23 automobile accident. He was an all-American at Alabama and won the Butkus Award in 1989 as the nation’s top linebacker.

The New York Times

Let’s just say it succinctly: our defense has never been the same since we lost him,” Carl Peterson, the president and general manager of the Chiefs, said in a telephone interview last week. “It was like a flame that went out.”

Almost five years after his death at age 33, Thomas remains irreplaceable on the field and in the locker room, a testament to the power of one player to shape a team. Time and new players have not been able to make the Chiefs whole.

The New York Times

There’s another campaign we’re buzzing about other than the presidential one that’s going on — the Derrick Thomas for the NFL Hall of Fame campaign.

This is D.T.’s fourth shot, and probably his best chance to get in. Regardless of what anybody thinks of him as an all-around player, he was unquestionably one of the top-five pass rushers and maybe even defensive game changers of all time. He deserves to be in the Hall. No doubt about it. He also recently won the 2007 COAT (Chief of All Time) award. Should someone who was voted a team’s all-time best player not be in the HOF? That’s just a joke.

Arrowhead Addict

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee announced on Saturday that the late LB Derrick Thomas has been elected to the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2009. The Class of 2009 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, August 8th. Thomas becomes the 10th member of the Chiefs to be enshrined in Canton. He joins fellow linebackers Bobby Bell (Class of ‘82) and Willie Lanier (Class of ‘86) in Canton.

“This is an exciting day for Chiefs fans across the country and an exciting day for our family,” Chiefs Chairman Clark Hunt said. “Derrick Thomas was a cornerstone of the modern era of the Chiefs, and one of the most feared pass rushers of his generation. We are thrilled with his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009.

“His outstanding statistics and play on the field made him deserving of pro football’s highest individual honor, but – just as importantly – he was a hall of famer in the Kansas City community. Derrick’s legacy of community involvement is among the finest for any player in Chiefs history, and he will be remembered for contributions like the Third and Long Foundation and his work to help others long after his induction ceremony.”


I saw every one of Derrick Thomas’ sacks, every one of his forced fumbles, every one of his safeties, recovered fumbles and touchdowns. D.T. was a remarkable defensive force in the game every time he stepped on the field. There have been very few defensive players who could change the course of a game. That was Derrick Thomas the player. 

But there was so much more to Derrick than that and there are so many moments off the field were D.T. also left memories. One came in the 1992 off-season.

At the time, I was doing a morning radio show on KCFX with comedian/author/bon vivant David Naster. We booked an author for an in-studio appearance. Her name was Jean Hill and she had been the subject of a book JFK: The Last Dissenting Witness. She and the book’s author were scheduled to be in studio one morning.

Jean Hill had been in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963. She was just 21 feet away from President John Kennedy when he was shot. Hill is visible in the Zapruder film as the woman wearing a red rain coat. She said emphatically from the start that the shots at JFK came from the area that has become known as the “grassy knoll” not from the upper floors of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building.

In the years after the assassination, Hill faded from public view. Many others in the Plaza that day died under unusual circumstances and her comments were in direct contradiction to the conclusions issued by the Warren Commission. She said she did not want the attention and feared for her life.

Eventually, she was convinced to tell her story. She also became one of the major sources of information for director Oliver Stone in the making of his movie JFK.

When it came to the JFK and his death, few people were more informed, were more studied on the matter than Derrick Thomas. He had every book written about the subject and there have been hundreds. He had every documentary done on that day, and there have been dozens. He had visited Dealey Plaza. He had talked to others who were part of that day, both before and after the shooting. When it came to all the theories on what happened, he could discuss them all, poke holes in them, or provide supportive information.

D.T. was perfect to have with us that morning to talk with Jean Hill. I approached him one day during the off-season at Arrowhead and told him that she was going to be our guest and that I wanted him to be there. His eyes lit up and he said absolutely, what time? When I told him 7:30 a.m., the smile left his face.

“Ah Gretz, why don’t you get an afternoon show?” he said. “Damn, I’ll be there.”

Understand that D.T. was not a morning person. Actually he hated mornings. He was also perpetually late. I walked away and figured there was no way he would show up on time and little chance that he would show up at all.

The appointed morning came. A few minutes before the appointed moment, our phone rang in the studio from the security desk downstairs. It was D.T.

He showed up in the studio wearing a suit and the look of a man who had not yet been to bed. Turns out he had not slept. No, he had not been partying. He had been working.

At the time, D.T. had bought a limousine and set up a limo service. The night before he had a reservation for the car, but at the last minute his driver had to back out of the assignment. So being the owner, D.T. became the driver. He threw on a suit, grabbed the keys and took care of the fare. It was a bachelor party that started in Kansas City, made its way to Lawrence and Topeka and then back to Kansas City. He dropped off his last passenger and came right to the studios.

Jean Hill showed up a few minutes later and before any of us knew it, she and Derrick were conversing on the air about the assassination. Hill was amazed at D.T.’s depth of knowledge and he reveled in the opportunity to pick the brain of someone who had been on the spot.

To this day, I’m not sure how it sounded on the air, if it was entertaining, or made sense. But I was fascinated. Just watching a young man like Thomas talking with a woman who was a senior citizen about one of the biggest news events of the century was surreal.


Bob Gretz to Arrowhead Pride about Derrick Thomas 


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