The greatest game of Derrick Thomas’ 11-year career came against Seattle on Veterans Day 1990. Thomas sacked Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg seven times, setting the NFL single-game record. Thomas also had six sacks in a game eight years later.

7-sack game meant more

The greatest game of Derrick Thomas’ 11-year career came against Seattle on Veterans Day 1990. Thomas sacked Seahawks quarterback Dave Krieg seven times, setting the NFL single-game record. Thomas also had six sacks in a game eight years later.

But the Seattle game had special meaning. Prior to kickoff, four Air Force fighter jets flew over the stadium, and just before the game started, Capt. Jim Preston gave Thomas a yellow headband for luck.

Thomas’ father, Robert Thomas, was shot down while he piloted a B-52 over Vietnam, and years later was declared dead.

“Whenever Air Force planes fly over the stadium, it gives me a great deal of motivation,” Thomas said after that game.

But the day did not end well. Krieg slipped out of Thomas’ grip on the last play of the game and scrambled to find Paul Skansi for a 25-yard touchdown pass that won the game for Seattle, 17-16, as time expired.

“We didn’t win today,” Thomas said. “So down the road somewhere, the record might mean a lot. But right now, it doesn’t mean much.”

Connected to Canton

One reason Kansas City selected Thomas in 1989 is Neil Smith. The Chiefs took Smith in the first round of the 1988 draft. New Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer and General Manager Carl Peterson thought Smith could be a player to bolster the defense.

The year after the Chiefs selected Thomas, they drafted McKinley High School graduate and former Michigan State star Percy Snow, the only player in college football history to win the Butkus Award (top college linebacker) and Lombardi Trophy (top college lineman).

Snow played well as a rookie in 1990, starting at inside linebacker while Thomas started outside. In 1991, Snow injured his knee in a scooter accident during training camp and was placed on the inactive list for the whole season. His knee never recovered, and Snow was out of football after the ’93 season.

Visit to Hall

In 1997, three years before he died, Thomas made a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Hall’s “Best of Yesterday and Today” autograph sessions. He was paired with Chiefs great and Hall of Famer Len Dawson in the summer of 1997.

“This is something I’ll gladly give up my time for,” Thomas told The Repository. “It’s always exciting to see how someone lights up when you sign something for them.”

That smile

There were many times when Schottenheimer or Peterson had to bring Thomas into their offices for visits. Usually it was a minor concern, but it was always difficult for Schottenheimer to be too critical of Thomas.

“I can’t remember the specific incident, but Derrick had to come to my office for something,” Schottenheimer said. “He sat down and we were discussing the matter, and I was upset with him, and he lowered his eyes.

“The amazing thing about Derrick Thomas was his smile. He had this wide, big beaming smile. And as we ended the conversation, I said, ‘You understand exactly what I’m expecting of you?’ And there was that grin.”

Suspended

Thomas was only suspended for one game in his career, but it was an ugly on-the-field incident that garnered much national attention.

During a 1998 game against Denver, which the Chiefs lost during an awful season, Thomas drew a personal foul penalty for hitting quarterback Bubby Brister in the head and twice was flagged for pulling and twisting Shannon Sharpe’s facemask.

Kansas City linebacker Wayne Simmons and defensive end Chester McGlockton also were hit with personal fouls during the game. It prompted owner Lamar Hunt to say the penalties “disgraced this organization as well as their community.”

Simmons was cut the following week, and the Chiefs suspended Thomas for a game.

Thomas held a press conference and apologized to the Broncos, the Chiefs, the fans, his mother and grandmother, as well as the youth of America.

Schottenheimer said at the time, “I’m embarrassed, humiliated. I’m angry.”

Extravagant

When it came to spending money, few people could spend it like Thomas. His custom-made suits cost about $3,000, according to one published report, and he owned between 20 and 30 of them.

He once bought a suit pinstriped in 14-carat gold. He once bought a $12,000 3-carat diamond pinkie ring, decided he didn’t like it, and sent it to friend Hank Williams Jr.

But Thomas was just as generous with his family as he was with his inner circle. He paid for a sister’s wedding, nephews’ college tuition and made sure his mother, Edith Morgan, wanted for nothing.

“He was my everything,” Morgan said.

One Kansas City newspaper estimated that Thomas went through $100,000 a month.

Canton Repository