Derrick Thomas Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame
Derrick Thomas, pass rusher for the Kansas City Chiefs was a legendary football player known for accomplishing amazing things on as well as off the field. Thomas was much mourned when he died after a car accident in 2000, at age 33, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 8, 2009.
Thomas was virtually irreplaceable after his death, famed for his unbeatable ability to rush quarterbacks during every game. According to former Chiefs quarterback and Hall of Famer Len Dawson, Thomas was a major influence on the field in every game.
“He was an impact player, and those people don’t come around that often,” said former Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson, a Hall of Fame member himself. “He’s somebody that could change the outcome of a game, and there’s just not that many of those guys. He had that kind of ability. If you didn’t control Derrick Thomas, he was going to control you.
In addition to being a star football player, Thomas was known for having an extremely big heart and for his contributions to communities outside of football.
Having struggled with learning problems himself in school, such as dyslexia, Thomas established the Third and Long Foundation, which combats illiteracy in inner-city schools in Kansas City. The foundation is now nearly 20 years old.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, totaling 126.5 sacks, including an NFL-record seven against the Seattle Seahawks in 1990 on the way to 20 during the season.
He forced 45 fumbles, making it look almost routine with that patented chop, John Elway as often a victim as anyone else.
Yet the reason Thomas is a Hall of Famer, beyond anything on the field, is his contributions in the classrooms of Kansas City.
Finally, Thomas was likely the biggest star of all to one Philip Tepe, a high school basketball player who was hemophiliac and contracted AIDS through a tainted blood infusion. Tepe belonged to the Lone Wolf team in Oklahoma, and as word of his condition spread, other schools, teams, and cities refused to play Lone Wolf, with fans turning their backs and other players running away.
Thomas, with friend and attorney Kevin Regan, brought all the Lone Wolf basketball players to Kansas City and gave them a game with professional players, and outfitted the entire team with new equipment, sports wear, and supplies. Thomas and Tepe became good friends and remained so until Tepe passed away. What is even more touching is the fact that Thomas did all of the above privately, refusing as others urged him to display his charity publicly through press conferences and fundraisers.
These two — the professional superstar and the dying kid — hit it off. Philip wasn’t a charity case; He was a friend. [...] As the boy’s mother, Dorecia Tepe once told me: “When you really need it, God sends special people into your life. Derrick Thomas was that special person for Philip.”