Perhaps the greatest pass rusher in college football history, the cerebral Derrick Thomas was one of the best in the game at any level. For over a decade, the 6’3” 255-pound Thomas terrorized pass rushers. We may never see his like again.
His game against Penn State was considered his collegiate masterpiece and remains one of the most dominating single performances by a defender in college football history: 3 sacks, 9 hurries, 12 knockdowns, a safety, 13 tackles.
He would not only repeat the feat against the Seattle Seahawks as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, but would set a record that may never be topped -- seven sacks in one game, although he almost tied it a year later recording six sacks in a game.
Thomas had double-digit sacks in seven of his eleven years in the NFL, and passed away recording 126.5 for his career, 16th all-time in the NFL. He still holds the NFL record for sacks in a game, and, if the NCAA back-dated to his career, he would the collegiate and school records for sacks in a season (27,) and 52 sacks in a career (tied with Teddy Bruschi.) It would be a decade before Michael Strahan broke his NFL record of 20 sacks in a season (22.5,). Thomas still holds Alabama’s record for sacks in a game (5, in the 1988 Hurricane Bowl vs. Texas A&M.) And, aside from Terrell Suggs’ 24 sacks in 2002 -- no one has seriously threatened to top his 27 sacks in a collegiate season.
Derrick Thomas passed away after a car accident on an icy Kansas City road. Traveling over 100 piles per hour, without his seatbelt, DT lost control of his vehicle while going to the airport. In a death full of what-ifs, perhaps the greatest what-if, and one that haunts KC fans, is “what if the Chiefs had won their divisional playoff game?” Instead of trying to catch a flight from KCI to attend the AFC title game, Thomas and company would have been hosting it.
Thomas posthumously entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 2009 after a shameful four-year snub; and, after an even worse decade-plus delay was finally admitted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Derrick Thomas left us at age 33, the best ever.
52 days ‘til Alabama football.