Thomas’s legacy on and off the football field has lived on through the Chiefs and its kingdom 21 years after his tragic passing.
Nearly 21 years after his tragic passing, there is zero question of the impact Derrick Thomas left. Whether it was making game-winning plays on Sundays or serving others, Thomas became a Kansas City icon.
It’s near impossible to go to Arrowhead on game day and not see a No. 58 jersey on someone. Thomas left such a lasting impact with his dominance on the field and through his charitable work in the Kansas City area.
The Chiefs drafted Thomas fourth overall in the 1989 NFL Draft after an incredible career at Alabama. Thomas won the Butkus award for his 1988 junior campaign.
That season saw Thomas basically set the record for most sacks in a single season with 27. I put basically because sacks weren’t considered an official stat yet by the NCAA until 2000.
After such an unbelievable season, Thomas was expected to come in day one to be ready and prepare to play a big role. He did that and then some throughout his 11-year career for the Chiefs.
As a rookie, Thomas had a team-high ten sacks with a forced fumble. The double-digit sacks led Thomas to a Pro Bowl appearance and to be awarded the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
The Chiefs finished their 1989 season 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs. Thomas would come back the next season ready to start competing for more.
Thomas’ second season would be his most dominate year as a Chief. Breaking both the single-season franchise sack record and the NFL single-game sack record with seven against the Seattle Seahawks.
Justin Houston broke Thomas’ franchise single-season record with 22 sacks in 2014.
20 sacks along with six forced fumbles earned Thomas his first First-Team All-Pro nomination. Another Pro Bowl appearance would eventually turn into eight straight appearances through the 1997 season.
The Chiefs improved as well, finishing 11-5 and with a Wild Card birth. Their potential playoff run was halted by Dan Marino in a 17-16 loss.
Thomas continued to impress in his third and fourth seasons. Racking up 13.5 in 1991 and 14.5 sacks in 1992, respectfully. After four seasons, Thomas showed that he was one of the most electric pass rushers the game has ever seen.
The Chiefs made the postseason both seasons but didn’t get past the divisional round yet. Thomas also continued to force fumbles, forcing twelve fumbles across these two seasons.
After four seasons of dominance, the Chiefs understood how important of a role Thomas played to the defense. But the team needed help to take that next step for the 1993 season.
Signing quarterback Joe Montana and running back Marcus Allen helped to evolve the roster. Thomas would force four fumbles along with eight sacks in that season.
The Chiefs appeared in the AFC Championship game but got starked 30-13 against a Jim Kelly led Buffalo Bills squad. This was the Chiefs first conference title appearance after the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Thomas and the Chiefs would never get that close to a Super Bowl again. But throughout his career, Thomas continued to shine and work toward greatness.
Thomas left a lasting impact on the Chiefs organization, as he leads in franchise sacks, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles and safties. But Thomas proved to be more than a football player.
Through his organization, 3rd and Long, Thomas, along with former Chiefs players Neil Smith and Otis Taylor. Their purpose is to ‘sack’ illiteracy, more information can be found on the 3rd and Long website.
Thomas played 11 seasons with the Chiefs until his tragic passing in Feb. 2000. The Chiefs and the NFL both honored the late great.
In 2009, Thomas was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with the Chiefs Ring of Honor. No player will ever wear No. 58 for the Chiefs organization again after its retirement.
Over the course of his professional career, Thomas proved to not only be a spectacular football player. But a person who served the community he lived in.
Chiefs Kingdom has continued to remember No. 58 and the legacy Thomas left within the Chiefs organization.