Texas Tech football alums: Zach Thomas finally a finalist for Canton

Former Texas Tech linebacker Zach Thomas is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, an honor that is long overdue.

One of the biggest Pro Football Hall of Fame snubs in our lifetimes, Zach Thomas might be on the verge of assuming his rightful place in Canton.  That’s because Thursday, the former Miami Dolphin great was named as one of 15 modern-era finalists to be voted on.  The five inductees will be announced the Saturday before next month’s Super Bowl.

Because he played for an offensive-oriented franchise (the Miami Dolphins), was never voted the Defensive Player of the Year, and didn’t help carry his team to a Super Bowl, the Pampa, Texas native has been overlooked despite a fantastic career that essentially mirrors the career of a linebacker already in Canton.

2017 inductee Brian Urlacher was voted in on his first try making it seem odd that a player like Thomas, who played the same position and put up amazingly similar stats, had never been a finalist.  He was named to one more All-Pro team (5) than Urlacher and one less Pro Bowl (7).

In 13 years, Thomas registered 1,100 tackles compared to Urlacher’s 1,040 in the same number of seasons.  Thomas played in eight playoff games recording 60 tackles while Urlacher had 55 tackles in seven career postseason games.  The difference may be the fact that Urlacher appeared in a Super Bowl, something that Thomas never did, however, team success is a metric normally only reserved for evaluating quarterbacks.

It will always be my theory that Thomas was also undervalued because of his playing style.  Rather than being a physically dominant player who racked up tons a highlight hits as the intimidating Urlacher, the undersized Thomas was a sideline-to-sideline LB who used speed and brains as his best weapons.  Those are the traits that most people celebrate in middle linebackers but they are essential components of their game.

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He is one of only three players in NFL history to register at least 100 tackles in the first ten seasons of their career.  And only two players in the Hall of Fame, Junior Seau and Ray Lewis, have more career tackles to their name.

A 2015 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, he finished his career at Texas Tech in 1996 with 390 tackles.  That was good for third-most in program history at the time and is still the 5th-most of any Red Raider to play the game.

“I definitely did not get this far alone. I’m being considered because I had great coaches, teammates and incredible fans, who helped and supported me,” Thomas said.  “I can’t thank them all enough for their outpouring of love.”

We will know if Thomas has been named to the Hall of Fame on February 1st, during the NFL Honors show.  If he is indeed headed to Canton, he will be enshrined on the weekend of August 6-9.

Next: The all-decade Red Raider linebackers

Thomas would be the first Red Raider in the Hall of Fame, an honor that he has deserved since the moment his career ended.  There’s no question that his career was worthy of enshrinement.  Now, it is up to the voters to make it official.

 

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