Derrick Thomas was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft, fourth overall, and was signed by the Kansas City 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.
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 Seahawks‘ 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.