Dorm Report: Thomas' election to Hall was overdue

The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame class was announced last week with some very notable names among the 14 players and two coaches selected for induction Dec. 9.

Among those names are some very household ones in recent football history who fans were accustomed to hearing at both the college and NFL levels, including LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Roaf, Sterling Sharpe and Dre' Bly.


Others to be inducted include Tony Boselli, Shane Conlan, Darrin Nelson, Dave Butz, Joe Hamilton, John Huard, John Sciarra, Leonard Smith and Wesley Walls for players, and Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and Jerry Moore (Appalachian State) are the two coaches headed for the Hall.

But easily the most talked-about name that was found on the ballot who didn't get the necessary votes for admission until last week was former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas.

Thomas, who died in 2000 from injuries sustained in a car crash while on his way to the Kansas City airport, defined the term "snub" for many over the years when talks about the College Hall of Fame arose.


Not anymore.

After four years on the ballot, Thomas was finally selected to join the College Hall of Fame. And fans rejoiced because Thomas was, by numerous accounts, a potential first-ballot Hall of Famer years ago. The holdup wasn't expected.

Thomas, during his playing days at Alabama (1985-88), was a monster athlete who was a pass rushing aficionado before pass rushing was painstakingly emphasized the way it is today.

He spent a phenomenal career being a disrupter for the Crimson Tide, and his stats reflected his incredible talent. During his senior season (1988), Thomas set an NCAA record with 27 sacks. That total still stands today as the best in a single season for FBS players.

Thomas won the Butkus Award following that season, which is given to the nation's top linebacker, and he finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy race to top it off (he was behind players such as Deion Sanders, Troy Aikman, Rodney Peete and Barry Sanders).

By the time he left college to enter the professional ranks, Thomas held the record for most sacks in a career (52, which has since been tied). He was the 1988 SEC Defensive Player of the Year recipient, and a consensus All-American who finished his career with 74 tackles for loss, including 39 his final season.


Thomas was the fourth overall selection in the ensuing NFL Draft, when he was taken by Kansas City. It was immediately evident Thomas hadn't peaked in college.

In his rookie season in 1989, Thomas started all 16 games for the Chiefs, recording 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and 75 total tackles. The next season, Thomas set a career mark with 20 sacks while playing in one fewer game than the previous year.

While with the Chiefs during his 11-year professional career, Thomas set single-season personal highs in forced fumbles with eight (1992), fumble recoveries with four (1991) and tackles with 79 (1991), and he added four touchdowns and three safeties to his career resume.

Thomas played his way onto nine Pro Bowl rosters and set the NFL's single- game record for most sacks with seven against Seattle on Nov. 11, 1990 - a record still in his name today. He was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Jan. 31, 2009, in his fifth year of eligibility.

It's a mystery why it took so long for his name to finally be recognized with the inductees rather than the annual snubs of the College Hall class. His name was on the ballot three times before his acceptance on the fourth try.

Advertisement called Thomas "a linebacker ahead of his time." The 6-foot-3, 255-pound native of Miami was the prototype for athletic, extremely quick defensive players whom teams look for nowadays to control versatile and menacing quarterbacks and running backs. He truly was ahead of his time and additionally managed to help shape the mold of future players.

Tomlinson, who starred as a running back at TCU from 1997-2000, never played against Thomas in the NFL. But he does know what it means to share this Hall induction with a man of Thomas's caliber.

"I just remember hugging his mom and talking to her from time to time," Tomlinson said about playing at Kansas City. "They carried on a certain tradition there, the Thomas family, and they should be proud. Derrick Thomas was such a great athlete, but also a great human being."

Whatever the case for the delay, Thomas will be in his rightful place among college football's greatest names come Dec. 9. Though Thomas himself isn't here to accept the invitation, it's comforting for FBS and college football fans to know his incredible legacy lives on.


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