NFL History: Revisiting Legendary Thomas’ Shortened Pro Career

February 8, 2015 • Ben Heck • AFC West, Front Page, History, Kansas City Chiefs

On this day exactly 15 years ago, Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame outside linebacker Derrick Thomas tragically passed away at the age of 33, cutting an all-time great NFL career short by several years.

Thomas, who had just finished his 11th NFL season with the Chiefs, drove his Chevy Suburban off the interstate on his way to the Kansas City International Airport on January 23, 2000. He was allegedly speeding at around 100 MPH, with two passengers, in the snow and ice when he lost control of the vehicle. He and one of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle, and Thomas was paralyzed while the other passenger was killed instantly.

A few weeks later, on February 8, 2000, Thomas passed away in the hospital.

It was a very tragic death, and shook not only the K.C. football scene, but the entire National Football League.

The nine-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro played his whole career in Kansas City, and was one of the league’s most dangerous pass-rushers. In his 11 seasons, Thomas recorded double-digit sack totals seven different times, including a league-leading 20.0 in just his second pro season in 1990.

Overall, the Hall of Famer (inducted into the Hall in 2009) tallied 126.5 sacks, which is good enough for 15th on the all-time list. Among the 14 players ahead of Thomas on the sack list, just one guy played less seasons in the league than Thomas (DeMarcus Ware: 127.0 in 10 seasons and counting). He still holds the single-game sack record, with 7.0 against Dave Krieg and the Seahawks in 1990.

Considering the all-time great had just come off a season in which he recorded 60 tackles, 7.0 sacks and an interception, who knows how many more sacks Thomas could have accumulated over his career if it weren’t for the car accident.

Rest in peace, D.T. January 1, 1967-February 8, 2000.


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