An emotional day for those close to Derrick Thomas

CANTON, Ohio — Expect an emotional speech today from Carl Peterson, the former Kansas City Chiefs general manager who will be accepting and presenting for the late Derrick Thomas.

It’s well documented that Peterson and Thomas had a father-son relationship — both on and off the field — during their time together before Thomas’ tragic death in 2000. Peterson is as pleasant and forthcoming as anyone I’ve come across in sports, and he spoke candidly about his relationship with Thomas.

Peterson said it will be difficult to keep his emotions in check. It’s been nine years since he gave the eulogies at two funerals for Thomas, in Kansas City and Miami. He also said he expects that his speech will go well over the time limit, as he tries to encapsulate Thomas’ life and career. We joked that if there’s any day to go over a time limit, it’s today — he can’t get fired, and he probably won’t get booed offstage, either.

Each inductee is allotted 20 minutes during the ceremony, and for Thomas — as well as the late Bob Hayes — their portion will begin with a video, followed by the unveiling of the bust, before a presentation and acceptance speech. Peterson and Thomas’ eldest son, Derrion, will present the bust. Then Peterson has the task of combining acceptance and presenting speeches on the behalf of Thomas in a span of 11 minutes.

As for his speech, Peterson said that more than anything, it’s a celebration, and a chance to thank all of the people Derrick would have wanted to thank on this day. Peterson said he had 20 people in his traveling party for the ceremony, and estimated there were 45 more with the Thomas family. And then there’s this — according to Peterson, every coach who has ever coached Thomas in the NFL is here today. That includes former Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer, as well as former Chiefs and current Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, who has never missed a day of practice during his career.

What a testament to the late Derrick Thomas.

— Frank Tadych

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