“Rest in Peace”: NFL World Remembers Chiefs’ Derrick Thomas 24 Years After His Passing, Recognizing a Big Similarity in Super Bowl

Published 02/08/2024, 12:36 PM EST

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As the Kansas City Chiefs gear up for Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday, the memory of Derrick Thomas, the iconic No. 58, looms large. It’s been 24 years since Thomas tragically passed away on February 8, 2024. Heralded as one of the greatest linebackers of all time, Thomas left an indelible mark on the Chiefs and the NFL. 

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Drafted in the first round from Alabama in 1989, Thomas wasted no time making his presence felt with an impressive 10 sacks in his rookie season. His sophomore year was even more spectacular, recording a staggering 20 sacks, including an unforgettable 7.5 sacks in a single game—an NFL record that still stands today. 24 years later, NFL fans from all across take to platform X to revisit his legacy. 

The Derrick Thomas Tragedy 

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Derrick Thomas, the towering 6-foot-3, 243-pound linebacker, epitomized the essence of football greatness during his illustrious 11-season career with the Kansas City Chiefs. A formidable force on the field, his prowess as an All-Pro was matched only by his gentle and affable demeanor. However, tragedy struck on January 23, 2000, as Thomas, accompanied by friends, embarked on a journey to witness the NFC Championship Game. The slick, icy roads proved unforgiving, leading to a devastating accident that claimed the life of his close friend Michael Tellis, and left Thomas and another passenger severely injured.

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The news reverberated through the football community, leaving players, coaches, and fans stunned. The extent of Thomas’ injuries, including fractures in his cervical and thoracic spine, was grimly outlined by medical experts. Despite undergoing extensive treatment and rehabilitation at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, hope dwindled when, unexpectedly, on February 8, 2000, Thomas succumbed to complications during a routine therapy session. His passing cast a shadow over the entire city of Kansas City and the Chiefs’ organization. On his death anniversary fans flood platform X with prayers, “Rest in Peace.”

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Fans revisit Derrick Thomas’ legacy 

As former Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney aptly puts it, Derrick Thomas was not just a football star; he was a true hero whose legacy transcends the sport, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of many. Fans revisited his legacy, celebrating the iconic number he donned, Yes 58 The greatest. My favorite and every Chief fan is appreciating this run and not taking it for granted. We understand it’s beyond special.”

Others highlighted the immense impact and inspiration he had on impressionable minds, “He’s one of the main reasons a 7 year old kid from upstate NY became a Chiefs fan.”

Derrick Thomas launched his career with an impressive streak of nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections, a testament to his unmatched skill and dedication on the football field. Beyond his athletic prowess, Thomas was recognized as the NFL Man of the Year, lauded for his philanthropic endeavors off the gridiron. Notably, he spearheaded an annual Thanksgiving food drive and established the Third and Long Foundation, aimed at bolstering literacy rates in Kansas City. A fan acknowledged his legendary achievements, This man was a force…. a pure force!” 

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Others drew parallels with current Chief’s icons, “Prior to Mahomes and Kelce this was the greatest, most dynamic Chiefs player of my lifetime. The first game I ever attended was his 7 sack game vs the Seahawks.”

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Two decades hence, the legacy of Derrick Thomas endures. His indomitable spirit, infectious smile, and unwavering dedication to his community continue to be celebrated by those whose lives he touched. 

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Written by:

Anushka Laha

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One take at a time

Anushka Laha is an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. She is great at identifying and relating to the finer on and off-the-field nuances, which grants her the ability to cover an array of topics - from delving into the lives of retired NFL legends like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to the exciting developments happening on the college football field. As an artistic person, Anushka sees football and its physicality with an artistic lens where the players are creating art with their plays.
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Edited by:

Tripti Sarda

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