Derrick Thomas, a prominent figure in the world of American football, left an indelible mark on the sport with his exceptional talent and tenacious playing style.
Unfortunately, his career and life were tragically cut short, leaving fans and the football community mourning the loss of a true legend.
In this article, we will explore the circumstances surrounding the untimely death of Derrick Thomas.
Who Is Derrick Thomas?
Derrick Thomas was an American football linebacker and defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL).
He was born as Derrick Vincent Thomas on January 1, 1967. He was nicknamed “D.T.”
He was considered one of the finest pass rushers of all time and played 11 seasons for the Chiefs until his away in 2000.
Thomas attended the University of Alabama, where he won the Butkus Award, before being drafted fourth overall by Kansas City in the 1989 NFL Draft.
He was named to nine Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro teams during his career, and he set the single-game sacks record.
After the 1999 season, Thomas was paralyzed in a car accident and died two weeks later from a pulmonary embolism.
In 2009, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and in 2014, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas was reared with his mother, Edith Morgan, in Miami, Florida.
During the Vietnam War, his father, Air Force Captain and B-52 pilot Robert James Thomas, was killed during a mission.
Thomas attended South Miami Senior High School throughout his high school football career.
How Did Derrick Thomas Die?
On January 23, 2000, Thomas' 1999 Chevrolet Suburban crashed off Interstate 435 in Clay County while he and two passengers were driving to Kansas City International Airport for a flight to St. Louis to watch the NFC Championship Game between the St. Louis Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
According to police investigations, Thomas was driving at 70 mph despite the fact that snow and ice were rapidly piling on the route.
Thomas and one of the passengers were not wearing seat belts when they were flung from the automobile; the passenger, Michael Tellis, was murdered instantaneously.
The second passenger, who was wearing his seat belt, walked away from the scene unharmed. Thomas was paralyzed from the chest down.
By early February, Thomas was being treated at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital.
On the morning of February 8, 2000, while being transported from his hospital bed to a wheelchair on his way to therapy, Thomas informed his mother that he was not feeling well.
His eyes then slid back, according to Frank Eismont, an orthopedic specialist at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Eismont stated that Thomas died as a result of a pulmonary embolism, a huge blood clot that formed in his legs and proceeded to his lungs.
Months later, Thomas' family sued General Motors for $73 million in damages resulting from the accident. In 2004, a jury determined that the family was not entitled to any monetary compensation.
How Did Derrick Thomas Rise to Fame?
Derrick Thomas had a remarkable college football career at Alabama, setting records and winning awards.
He spearheaded a formidable defensive line alongside Cornelius Bennett and Keith McCants, earning the Butkus Award in 1988.
He was a consensus All-American that year and helped Alabama win the 1988 Sun Bowl.
He received the Sington Soaring Spirit Award and was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
In his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas made an immediate impact, winning the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
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He set records, including a single-game sack record of 7 sacks.
He consistently recorded double-digit sacks for seven seasons. In his final game, he narrowly missed the playoffs, tragically passing away 37 days later.