Home Sports He’s in! Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton

He’s in! Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton

He’s in! Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton

 Former Dolphins linebacker Zspanch Thomspans, who made a career out of stonewalling running backs with thunderous hits, made the loudest noise of all Thursday night by being named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m finally in, man,” Thomas said. “You can’t take me out.”

Thomas, 49, will be inducted into the Hall in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 5. Former Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson will be his presenter.

The honor comes in Thomas’ fourth year as a Hall finalist. While Thomas said he would remain patient through the process, insisting the game didn’t owe him anything, his fans voiced louder objections with each passing year, pointing out that many of his statistics surpassed that of linebackers already enshrined.

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In 12 seasons with the Dolphins, linebacker Zach Thomas made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Thomas said. “Growing up in Texas, I dreamed of playing football at any level. To have played at Texas Tech and then be drafted by the Dolphins was the ultimate. It was indeed a dream come true.

“I want to thank my family for all the sacrifices they made for me over the years. I could never have accomplished this without your love and support. Thank you to all of my teammates. Each of you made me a better player and are a big part of where I am today. I’m looking forward to celebrating this with all of you. Thanks to all my coaches, trainers and equipment staff for helping this honor become a reality. Lastly, I want to thank the Dolphins fans. Your support means everything to me.”

Seeing his bust in Canton will complete a storybook climb for Thomas, who arrived in South Florida with little fanfare. This undersized linebacker was chosen 154th overall in 1996 and coincidentally assigned jersey No. 54 in Miami.

To go from being a fifth-round pick to football immortality?

“It would mean a lot because I’m still that small-talent kid with big dreams that never could imagine it,” Thomas said when he was a first-time finalist in 2020. “They say it’s 1/10th of 1 percent just to make it to the NFL. But the odds of being in the conversation of the all-time greats has got to be super high. So for me, wow, man. I haven’t even thought that far up.”

In fact, he hadn’t thought of it even after Hall voters gathered for their annual conference to select honorees. Thomas said he was unaware the selection process had been completed until Johnson popped up at his house unannounced, wearing his own gold jacket, which could only mean good news.

“Oh, man,” Thomas said. “It was powerful. I broke down.”

Zach Thomas’ skills questioned — until he met Jimmy Johnson

Zach Thomas fights back tears as he talks to the media during a news conference announcing his retirement. He signed a one-day contract to retire as a Dolphin in 2010.

Thomas had to prove himself every step of the way, even as a linebacker at White Deer High in Pampa, Texas.

“You know, I was two-time all-state, but I don’t get offered,” he said. “I don’t look the part. I get offered two scholarships, so I take one (to Texas Tech). And then in college I was two-time All-American and then I go, the 154th pick. So for me, even in my early years, I knew every one of the 17 linebackers that went ahead of me. It was all just for motivation.”

When he arrived in Davie, Thomas’ goal was to make the roster through special teams. Starting middle linebacker? The Dolphins already had veteran Jack Del Rio.

But Johnson immediately knew he had something special in the new kid.

“Jimmy Johnson came to me and was like, ‘Zach, we’re starting you. Don’t let me down,’ ” Thomas said. “I’m like, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

Five All-Pro teams, 1,734 tackles just part of the Zach Thomas story

Not even Johnson could have predicted the results. In 12 seasons with the Dolphins, Thomas made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. In 168 games for the Dolphins — all starts — he had 1,640 tackles and 19.5 sacks. Coupled with the 2008 season spent with Dallas, Thomas finished his career with 1,734 tackles (74 for loss) and 20.5 sacks.

His secret? Thomas always prided himself in preparation. Teammates marveled at how many hours Thomas would spend each week studying film, searching for even the slightest edge over the upcoming opponent.

Not that he necessarily needed it, but Thomas’ Hall of Fame candidacy received a jump-start in 2019. Former Jets center Kevin Mawae took time during his Hall acceptance speech to say the one opponent who isn’t in the Hall but needed to be was Thomas.

“That’s humbling,” Thomas said. “There’s no greater honor than to get that recognition from an opponent.”

Thomas later received an endorsement from another Hall of Famer — Johnson — who tweeted, “He deserves to be in HOF!”

Thomas, who narrowly missed making the cut in 2020, becomes the 11th man whose career is primarily associated with the Dolphins to make the Hall. He also becomes the second linebacker chosen, joining the late Nick Buoniconti.

The other Dolphins in the Hall are coach Don Shula; quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino; centers Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson; fullback Larry Csonka; guard Larry Little; and receiver Paul Warfield.

But the Hall of Famer whom Thomas will forever be most associated with is defensive end Jason Taylor. Together, they formed the heart and soul of the Dolphins’ defense from 1996-2007. Taylor was enshrined in 2017.

“On behalf of the entire Dolphins organization and our fans around the world, I want to congratulate Zach on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said. “It was a joy to watch him play the game. Zach’s accomplishments on the field made him one of the greatest players in NFL history. His development from a fifth-round draft choice to a perennial Pro Bowl selection to receiving the most prestigious honor this game has to offer is a testament to his ability as both a player and a student of the game. As great as he was on the field, he is even better as a family man and a role model. We look forward to celebrating with him in Canton.”

Thomas will be enshrined along with the other members of the Class of 2023: cornerback/safety Ronde Barber, coach Don Coryell, linebacker Chuck Howley, defensive end/defensive tackle/nose tackle Joe Klecko, cornerback Darrelle Revis, cornerback Ken Riley, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware.


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