Derrick Thomas Finally Into Hall Of Fame

Alabama has never been much about individual football honors, even though members of so many great Crimson Tide football teams have been honored with virtually every award available. Still, it was a gnawing irritation that one of the finest linebackers in college football history was overlooked for inclusion into the College Football Hall of Fame.

"What are those voters thinking?" Alabama followers had to ask themselves as they waited for Derrick Thomas to be awarded his spot in the College Football Hall of Fame. No longer. The wrong has been righted.

On Tuesday it was announced that Thomas, a linebacker at Alabama from 1985 through 1988 and a previous selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will be inducted with the Class of 2014 into the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame.

The new class includes two coaches, Mike Bellotti known primarily for his career at Oregon, and Jerry Moore, best known from Appalachian State.

Joining Thomas in the players division are 13 other former first team All-America performers. They are:

Dre Bly of North Carolina, Tony Boselli of USC, Dave Butz of Purdue, Shane Conlan of Penn State, Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech, John Huard of Maine, Darrin Nelson of Stanford, Willi Roaf of Louisiana Tech, John Sciarra of UCLA, Sterling Sharpe of South Carolina, Leonard Smith of McNeese State, LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU, and Wesley Walls of Ole Miss.

The Class of 2014 will be inducted at the NFF's annual awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Dec. 9. They will also be recognized in individual on-campus salutes, at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2014, and will be included when the new $66./5 million College Football Hall of Fame building opens in Atlanta in August.

Thomas and Tomlinson lead the group as unanimous All-America players.

Thomas becomes the 19th Crimson Tide player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame.

Thomas finished his career as the major college leader in career sacks en route to winning unanimous All-America in 1988. He was the 1988 Butkus Award winner as the top linebacker in the nation.

Thomas led the Crimson Tide to an impressive 35-5-1 record and four consecutive bowl berths, including wins in the 1985 Aloha Bowl and the 1986 and 1988 Sun Bowls. Following his senior season, the two-time all-conference selection was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and he earned National Defensive Player of the Year awards from CBS, Football News and the Washington Touchdown Club. A finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1988, Thomas finished in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting, and he was selected as the 1988-89 SEC Athlete of the Year across all sports.

Besides the NCAA mark, he also set the SEC records for sacks in a season (27), and he finished his career with 204 tackles, 74 tackles for loss, 10 forced fumbles, two safeties and nine blocked kicks.

Thomas played alongside Hall of Famer Cornelius Bennett during his time in Tuscaloosa.

Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Chiefs, culminating with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. The 1989 Defensive Rookie of the Year, he was elected to the Pro Bowl every year from 1989-97. The 1993 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Thomas holds the NFL record for sacks in a game with seven, and he was a member of the 1990s All-Decade Team.

A member of both the 1980s Alabama Team of the Decade as selected by the readers of 'BAMA Magazine and All-SEC Decade Team, Thomas is a member of the Alabama Centennial Team, and he was named a Sun Bowl Legend in 2000.

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.

The Miami native passed away on Feb. 8, 2000 at the age of 33 from complications following injuries suffered in an automobile accident.

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