CANTON, Ohio — Former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson gave a highly emotional speech about late LB Derrick Thomas, a 2009 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Peterson opened with a story about working out Thomas in Tuscaloosa, Ala., before the 1989 NFL Draft. Peterson, along with coach Marty Schottenheimer and then-assistant coach Bill Cowher, put Thomas through drill after drill after drill. And each time, Peterson recalled, Thomas flashed that famous smile of his and asked, “What more do you want to see?”
Although Thomas was taken from us way too early, there wasn’t anything left for him to show us on the football field. Thomas dominated quarterbacks. Forty-six different quarterbacks were his victims. Thomas sacked former Broncos QB John Elway, another Hall of Famer, 17 times — a number in which Chiefs fans in attendance took great delight, cheering loudly when Peterson mentioned the accomplishment.
But one of the most heart-breaking anecdotes that Peterson told was the story of Thomas working so hard to earn his degree from the University of Alabama. His mother and grandmother were able to accept Thomas’ degree just months after his passing in 2000.
Peterson was amazing during his speech, never breaking down to cry, though crowd shots of former Chiefs teammate Neil Smith — wearing Thomas’ Pro Bowl jersey — and Schottenheimer showed that they were certainly moved. And you couldn’t blame them.
Peterson noted that after Thomas’ passing, a light went out in Kansas City. But Peterson closed by saying with Thomas in the Hall of Fame, that light is back on.
— Adam Rank