Greatest Alabama football career No. 3: Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas was one of the finest defensive players of the 1990s. Before that, he was an All-American at Alabama, winning the Butkus Award in 1988 as the nation’s best linebacker, something that would continue long into his professional career.
Thomas was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 4th pick of the 1989 NFL Draft and would spend all eleven seasons of his career with that franchise. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season and led the NFL with 20 sacks in year two, including a 7-sack game that still holds the NFL record.
Thomas was First Team All-Pro in two of his first three NFL seasons and led the league in forced fumbles twice early in his career. He appeared in nine consecutive Pro Bowls and anchored the Kansas City defense for most of his career, including in 10 postseason games.
He accumulated 126.5 sacks in his professional career, a career that sadly was cut short. Thomas was killed after being paralyzed in a car accident at the end of the 1999 NFL season, dying a few weeks later after a pulmonary embolism.
For a fantastic career, Thomas was posthumously elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and remains one of the most significant Chiefs in franchise history. He’s among the all-time leaders in sacks and a few other defensive metrics. His impact on the Chiefs’ defense during a relatively successful decade cannot be overlooked.