Two of the best players to ever don a Kansas City Chiefs uniform, the late linebacker Derrick Thomas and offensive tackle Willie Roaf, were selected to be part of the 16-man College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014, it was announced Thursday.
Thomas was taken out of the University of Alabama by the Chiefs with the fourth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft and is universally considered to be one of the franchise's five best players of all time. Without doubt, he was the most popular player with the fans during the run of playoff teams throughout the 1990’s.
But prior to that, Thomas was a pass rushing blur at linebacker throughout his career at Alabama, where he amassed 52 career sacks. In his senior season of 1988, he unofficially totaled an eye-popping 27 sacks and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
Unfortunately, the NCAA did not start keeping defensive stats officially until 2000, but even a quarter-century after he played his last collegiate game, Thomas would still hold the NCAA record for sacks in a season and for a career. He also holds the Alabama school records for tackles for loss in a game, season, and career.
Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, nine years after his death on Feb. 8, 2000 in a Florida hospital. Thomas died of a pulmonary embolism that occurred three weeks after he had been paralyzed from the chest down in a one-car accident on an icy I-435 highway near Kansas City International Airport.
For Chiefs and Alabama fans who might be wondering why it took so long for one of the greatest defensive players of the last 40 years to be welcomed into the College Hall of Fame, it’s because Alabama did not nominate him for induction until 2011.
The Hall elected former Crimson Tide defensive tackle Marty Lyons (1975-78) that year. Because of the Hall's spread-the-wealth policy of not selecting a player from the same school in consecutive seasons, Thomas was not considered again until 2013.
Willie Roaf was not drafted by the Chiefs – that honor went to the New Orleans Saints who selected him with the 8th overall pick in the 1993 Draft – but he came to Kansas City before the 2002 season and immediately made an impact in head coach Dick Vermeil’s high-flying offenses.
The massive tackle only played four seasons in KC before retiring after 2005, but he teamed with fellow College Football Hall of Famer, guard Will Shields (elected in 2011), along with guard Brian Waters, center Casey Wiegmann, and right tackle John Tait to form what many consider to be one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history. Roaf went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
In college, Roaf attended Division I-A school, Louisiana Tech, from 1989 to 1992 and became the team’s first consensus All-American in his senior year (1992). He was also named a finalist for that season’s Outland Trophy, given to college’s best offensive lineman. Ironically, Roaf came in second in the voting to Will Shields.
The other 12 players scheduled for induction in the 2014 class are TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan, North Carolina defensive back Dre Bly, Southern California tackle Tony Boselli, Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz, Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, Maine linebacker John Huard, Stanford running back Darrin Nelson, UCLA quarterback John Sciarra, South Carolina wide receiver Sterling Sharpe, McNeese State cornerback Leonard Smith and Mississippi tight end Wesley Walls.
Mike Bellotti and Jerry Moore are two coaches who will be inducted. Bellotti posted a .630 winning percentage at Chico State and Oregon, while Moore had a .641 winning percentage at North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State.
The 2014 class will be the first to enter the College Football Hall of Fame at its new digs in Atlanta, which is expected to open in August. The class will be honored at the National Football Foundation's annual black-tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on the first Tuesday in December.
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