TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WCBI/UA Athletics) – Former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas was named to the 2014 class of the College Football Hall of Fame the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday.
Thomas, a native of Miami, Fla., one of the Crimson Tide’s all-time great linebackers, played for head coaches Ray Perkins and Bill Curry from 1985-88. A unanimous All-America selection in 1988 and a two-time All-SEC selection in 1987 and 1988, Thomas is the 24th Alabama player or coach to be selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
He joins UA greats such as teammate Cornelius Bennett as well as Paul W. Bryant, John Hannah, Frank Howard, Lee Roy Jordan, Woodrow Lowe, Johnny Musso, Ozzie Newsome and Gene Stallings.
“Derrick Thomas’ career at Alabama is legendary,” UA Director of Athletics Bill Battle said. “One of the most dominant linebackers to ever play the position, he was a game-changing player who to this day, more than 25 years after the close of his collegiate career, still owns several Crimson Tide records. We are proud and honored to see him inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, an organization with which The University of Alabama has a long and distinguished history.”
Thomas set Alabama and, per the National Football Foundation, NCAA records for sacks and tackles for a loss in 1988 on his way to winning the Butkus Award, CBS’ Defensive Player of the Year and the Washington Pigskin Club’s Defensive Player of the Year.
As a senior in 1988, Thomas recorded 88 tackles with 39 tackles for a loss of 250 yards while registering 27 sacks for a loss of 204 yards. He recorded 18 sacks for 142 yards as a junior in 1987 along with 67 tackles. He finished his career with 204 tackles, 68 tackles for loss (465 yards), 52 sacks (408 yards), 10 forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.
Thomas led the Crimson Tide to a 35-15-1 record during his four years at the Capstone with four bowl berths, including wins in the 1985 Aloha Bowl and the 1986 and 1988 Sun Bowls. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi Award and finished in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting while being named the 1988-89 Athlete of the Year across all sports by the Southeastern Conference
He served as a defensive captain for the 1988 team and was selected to the Tide’s Team of the Century and the Defensive Player of the Decade of the 1980s.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected Thomas with the fourth overall pick of the 1989 NFL Draft. He spent his entire 11-year career with the Chiefs and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Thomas was the 1989 Defensive Rookie of the Year and was elected to the Pro Bowl every year from 1989-97.
Thomas was also named the 1993 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He holds the NFL record for sacks in a game with seven and was a member of the 1990s NFL All-Decade team. Thomas was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Thomas was active in the community, starting the 3rd and Long Foundation in Kansas City to teach low-income children to read. Thomas passed away on Feb. 8, 2000, at the age of 33, following complications from a car accident.
He joins Don Hutson, Newsome, Hannah and Buck Buchanan (Grambling) as the only players to be chosen to college, pro and state of Alabama halls of fame.
The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Class will be inducted at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on December 9, 2014, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Each inductee will be recognized at their respective collegiate institutions with on-campus salutes during the fall and will be officially enshrined in the summer of 2015 in the new $66.5 million College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.