Thomas in a great HOF class

Hall of Fame photo

Derrick Thomas was destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Anyone who watched NFL action in the 1990s knew Kansas City Chiefs’ No. 58 would be a Hall of Famer.
No one could have foreseen Thomas’ career being halted as it was in 2000. A car accident on an icy January day in Kansas City left Thomas paralyzed but still alive. Then he was gone — just over two weeks after the accident Thomas went into cardio-respiratory arrest from a blood clot and died at a Miami, Fla., hospital. He was dead at 33.
But Saturday, as they did at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, fans will celebrate the 11 years Thomas dominated as a linebacker for the Chiefs.
I was there to watch many of his home games, with his relentless pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. Always going after the football. Don’t think of Thomas as just a pass rusher because he could deliver a monster blow on a ball carrier. Oh, yeah, he could stop a running attack, too.
Thomas and five others will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio. Thomas’ family asked former Chiefs’ general manager Carl Peterson be D.T.’s presenter.
What a group of outstanding men of the NFL are in the Class of 2009. Thomas and two other dominate defensive players go into the Hall together. Buffalo Bills’ defensive end Bruce Smith (1985-99) and Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive back Rod Woodson (1987-1996) are among the league’s elite defensive players.
Smith will see his long-time team’s owner Ralph Wilson Jr. being enshrined. Wilson is one of the founding members of the American Football League (AFL), along with Hall of Famer Lamar Hunt, the late owner of the Chiefs.
Then there are the late Bob “Bullet” Hayes of the Dallas Cowboys (1965-74) and Randall McDaniel of the Minnesota Vikings (1988-1999). Hayes was a wide receiver with Olympic gold medal speed who re-defined his position and how defensive backs covered receivers. McDaniel was a steady force on the Vikings’ offensive line which included starting 202 consecutive games at guard.
As a football fan, I’m proud to say I watched all five of the players on the field. They are Hall of Famers as is Wilson as an owner.