Derrick Thomas Receives Hall Of Fame Salute

The University of Alabama and The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame will jointly honor the late Derrick Thomas with an NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute at halftime Saturday of the Crimson Tide’s game with Southern Mississippi. Thomas’s mother, Edith Morgan, will represent the Thomas family. The game will start at 5 p.m. CDT and be televised by ESPN2.

“Derrick Thomas’ career at Alabama is legendary,” said NFF Board Member and Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle in a release after the announcement in May. “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.”

The NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salute program is a hallowed tradition that began with the inaugural class in 1951, and to this day the salutes remain the first of numerous activities in each inductee’s Hall of Fame experience. During the NFF Hall of Fame On-Campus Salutes, each inductee returns to his alma mater to accept a Hall of Fame plaque that will remain on permanent display at the institution. The events take place on the field during a home game, and many inductees cite the experience as the ultimate capstone to their careers, providing them one more chance to take the field and hear the crowd roar their name.

Thomas concluded his career as the NCAA FBS leader in career sacks with 52 en route to winning unanimous All-America honors as a senior. The 1988 Butkus Award winner as the top linebacker in the country, Thomas led the Crimson Tide to an impressive 35-5-1 record and four consecutive bowl berths from 1985-88, including wins in the 1985 Aloha Bowl and the 1986 and 1988 Sun Bowls. 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.

“Derrick Thomas redefined the position of linebacker in his remarkable college career,” said NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. “One of the most feared linebackers of his era, he had the rare ability and the sheer will to change the course of a game on every defensive snap. We are thrilled to honor him in front of the Alabama faithful at Bryant–Denny Stadium.”

Besides the NCAA sack record, he also set the SEC high water marks 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. 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.

Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas spent his entire 11-year 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 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.

Thomas becomes the 18th Crimson Tide to be inducted, joining Cornelius Bennett (1983-86), Johnny Mack Brown (1923-25), John Cain (1930-32), Harry Gilmer (1944-47), John Hannah (1970-72), Dixie Howell (1932-34), Pooley Hubert (1922-25), Don Hutson (1932-34), Lee Roy Jordan (1960-62), Woodrow Lowe (1972-75), Marty Lyons (1975-78), Vaughn Mancha (1944-47), Johnny Musso (1969-71), Billy Neighbors (1959-61), Ozzie Newsome (1974-77), Fred Sington (1928-30) and Riley Smith (1933-35). Four coaches with stops in Tuscaloosa are in the Hall: Paul “Bear” Bryant (1958-82), Gene Stallings (1990-96), Frank Thomas (1931-42, 1944-46) and Wallace Wade (1923-30).

Including the 2014 class, only 948 players and 207 coaches have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame from the nearly 5.06 million people who have played or coached the game over the past 146 years. In other words, only two ten-thousandths of one percent (.0002) of those who have set foot on the gridiron have earned the distinction.

The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class will be officially inducted at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, held at New York City’s historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, Dec. 9. This year’s College Football Hall of Fame Class includes: Dre Bly (DB, North Carolina), Tony Boselli (OT, Southern California), Dave Butz (DT, Purdue), Shane Conlan (LB, Penn State), Joe Hamilton (QB, Georgia Tech), John Huard (LB, Maine), Darrin Nelson (HB, Stanford), Willie Roaf (OL, Louisiana Tech), John Sciarra (QB, UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (WR, South Carolina), Leonard Smith (CB, McNeese State), the late Derrick Thomas (LB, Alabama), LaDainian Tomlinson (TB, TCU), Wesley Walls (TE, Mississippi), and coaches Mike Bellotti (Chico State [Calif.], Oregon) and Jerry Moore (North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State).

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