DT One Step Closer to Hall of Fame Induction

One of the premier linebackers in the NFL, the late Derrick Thomas was announced by the NFL on Tuesday as a one of 15 finalists to be enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio. If elected, Thomas would join former Kansas City Chiefs linebackers Bobby Bell and Willie Lanier.

Derrick Thomas had a stellar career for the Chiefs but complications from a severe car accident cost him his life in January of 2000. Thomas and friends were heading to the airport on a snowy morning in December in 1999 but he lost control of the vehicle and was paralyzed. A month later he endured a blood clot that killed the former All-Pro linebacker.

Thomas made a name for himself with the Kansas City Chiefs as soon as he was selected as the fourth pick of the 1988 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he garnered ten sacks and that record still stands as a rookie record for the Chiefs. In 1990 he smashed the team record with 20 sacks with six of those coming in one game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Known as D.T. to fans and teammates; Thomas ended his career with 126.5 sacks, three safeties, 18 fumble recoveries, and 45 forced fumbles. His sacks were fourth on the NFL All-Time list for linebackers at the time of his death.

Thomas became the first player in team history to play for the same team in three separate decades. His first game was in September 1998 and his last game was on January 2nd, 2000. The finalists will be announced prior to this years pro bowl in Hawaii.

Other notables who made the final cut of 15 include first year eligible players is wide receiver Michael Irvin, who won three Super Bowl's in four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990's. Irvin was part of the Cowboys rejuvenation that started in 1989 when Jimmy Johnson coached the 1-15 Cowboys and then later coach the team to back-to-back Super Bowl's in 1992 and 1993. Then one with Barry Switzer in 1995, which solidified the Cowboys as the team of the 1990's.

Irvin was also part of the big three along with Troy Aikman, who is now color analyst for FOX and Emmitt Smith, who is still playing for the Arizona Cardinals just had one of his best seasons in years.

Irvin's career ended on sad note, when he had a career ending neck injury on the hard surface at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. The Eagles fans, which did not know the severity of the injury at the time, booed Irvin when he lay motionless on the turf. He recovered fully but the injury was more than enough to sway him to hang up his cleats and move into the broadcast booth. He's now a commentator for ESPN.

Another ESPN veteran who made the list is Tampa Bay Buccaneer and San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young. The lefty started his pro career by playing in the USFL before making the jump to the big show. The former BYU star was a standout in college but he found a pot of gold by signing with the start up league out of college.

Young played two seasons for the Los Angles Express before Tampa Bay claimed his rights for the 1985 season. Young was spared playing for a bad Buccaneers team when he was picked up by the 49ers to back up Joe Montana 1987.

Young was the backup to Montana until 1991 when he was thrown into the roll of quarterback when Montana went down with an injury that sidelined him for year and half. In 1994, Young made his mark in the NFL by leading his team to a Super Bowl win over the San Diego Chargers. Young was the games MVP and he solidified his place as one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks in history.

His career ended in 1999 when he suffered another concussion, and gave way to Jeff Garcia. Young is already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2002.

The last member of the first year eligible entrants to make the cut should be a shoe-in. Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is certain to make it on the final ballot. Marino, who out of high school was drafted by the Kansas City Royals to play baseball, turned it down to play college football at the University of Pittsburgh.

After four years as a Panther, Marino was drafted 27th by Miami in the first round. That was 20 selections after the Chiefs drafted Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge. Marino was the least talked about draftee of the famed 1983 class. Marino was named the first rookie quarterback to start for the Pro Bowl and was the NFL rookie of the year after throwing 20 touchdown's to six interceptions.

Perhaps the greatest year ever by a quarterback came in 1984 when Marino threw 48 touchdown passes to only 17 interceptions. That mark held until this year when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning broke the record. Marino also took the ‘Phins to Super Bowl XIX, but was upset by Joe Montana and the 49ers 38-16.

In 1995 Marino made his mark as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL. He broke every major passing record held that year most touchdowns, most attempts, most completions, and most passing yards.

When Marino's career ended in 1999, he finished with 420 touchdown passes, 61,361 yards, 4,967 completions, and 8,358 attempts. The closest active pursuer to that record is Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre who is second on the list with 346 touchdown passes. Favre is in the top five of every other major passing record.

The hall of fame class will be introduced the day before the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Jacksonville.

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