NFL Star Derrick Thomas Dies at 33

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - Derrick Thomas, the Kansas City Chiefs' All-Pro linebacker who held the National Football League record of seven sacks in a single game, died on Tuesday of a sudden heart attack while being treated for injuries suffered in a car crash last month. He was 33.

Thomas died at 10:10 am at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, according to hospital spokeswoman Lorraine Nelson. She told wire service reporters that doctors would issue a statement with details about Thomas' death soon.

Thomas was injured January 23rd when he and two companions were heading to the Kansas City airport to fly to St. Louis for the NFC championship game. Their car flipped over on an icy road. One of the two passengers was killed and the other, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered minor injuries.

Thomas, who suffered severe spinal injuries and was paralyzed, was transferred to the trauma center in Miami, his hometown.

An All-American at Alabama, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Thomas became an immediate star as a pass-rushing specialist after being taken in the first round of the 1989 draft by Kansas City. He was an All-Pro in his first nine seasons.

Thomas ranked ninth all-time with 126.5 career sacks. He set the single-game sack record in 1990 in a game against Seattle. That game was the same week as Veterans Day and Thomas dedicated his performance to his father, an Air Force pilot killed in Vietnam.

Kansas City head coach Gunther Cunningham, who was the Chiefs' defensive coordinator from 1995-98, said last month that without Thomas, "the Chiefs would not have been as successful as they've been for the last 11 years. Derrick was the starting point to getting there."'

Chiefs' president Carl Peterson said Thomas' death is "a devastating tragedy. ... He has done so much for this team and our city during the time that he had with us."

Jackson Memorial is the home of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world's largest spinal cord injury research center, and its surgeons have operated on race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi and other athletes.