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Chiefs OLB Derrick Thomas

Legacy one-liner

No player had more sacks in the 1990s than Thomas’ 116.5, which included his NFL-record seven vs. the Seahawks in 1990 and six vs. the Raiders in the 1998 season opener. But his career was cut short by a fatal complication following a critical car accident when he was still performing at a high level.

They said it

"Derrick Thomas was a cornerstone of the modern era of the Chiefs, and one of the most feared pass-rushers of his generation. 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."

--Chiefs chairman/CEO Clark Hunt on the day Thomas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Key stat

In addition to his 126.5 sacks, the fourth most by a linebacker in NFL history, Thomas forced 41 fumbles and recovered 19, four of which he returned for touchdowns, the fourth most in league history. His three safeties are also the fourth most in NFL history.

Did you know?

Thomas died Feb. 8, 2000, from a blood clot that developed in his paralyzed legs and traveled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. A car accident 16 days earlier, which he caused, had left him paralyzed from the chest down. Thomas’ father, B-52 Air Force pilot Robert Thomas, died while flying a mission during the Vietnam War. 

Before the Chiefs drafted Thomas fourth overall in 1989, they had made just one playoff appearance in 18 years. In his 11 years in Kansas City, the Chiefs finished first or second in the AFC West 10 times and made seven playoff appearances.

Signature game

For most players, seven sacks represents a great season. Thomas got seven in one game against the Seahawks in 1990. In the third quarter, Thomas’ third sack knocked the ball loose from QB Dave Krieg, and Chiefs NT Dan Saleaumua recovered the ball to give K.C. a 16-10 lead and its only touchdown in three weeks.

Ironically, with four seconds remaining, Thomas had his hands on Krieg for a potential eighth sack, but the quarterback heaved a desperation, game-winning, 25-yard TD pass with no time remaining.

"That last sack I didn't get is the one I'm going to remember," Thomas said.