PHOENIX — Zach Thomas, Hall of Famer.
Fifteen years after his great career came to a close, the Miami Dolphins star linebacker finally got the call to Canton.
He’ll be a part of the nine-man Pro Football Hall of Fame class, crossing the 80% vote threshold on his fourth try as a finalist.
Thomas, in August, will join the following classmates at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony: 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.
Zach Thomas Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame
“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.”
Thomas joins his former brother-in-law Jason Taylor as one of 11 former Dolphins players and coaches inducted into the Hall of Fame. Thomas and Taylor were the cornerstones of the last period of sustained success for the organization.
“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 M. Ross wrote. “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.”
MORE: 2023 Hall of Fame Class
Thomas was one of five modern-era finalists to get the call, breaking through on his fourth try. While Thomas had to suffer through disappointment before finally getting in, his induction was always a matter of when, not if.
Over the course of his 13-year career, he went to the Pro Bowl seven times (most by a Dolphins defender), recorded 1,734 career tackles (fifth-most since the NFL began keeping track of that statistic in 1987) and was a first-team All-Pro five times. He was also a member of the 2000s all-decade team. That body of work is simply too good to keep out.
Finalists who fell short of the necessary vote total: Defensive end Jared Allen, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, defensive end Dwight Freeney, kick returner Devin Hester, wide receiver Torry Holt, wide receiver Andre Johnson, cornerback Albert Lewis, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive back, Darren Woodson.
The 2024 class includes the likes of edge defender Julius Peppers, tight end Antonio Gates and safety Eric Berry.
More Reaction to Zach Thomas Hall of Fame Selection
Former Dolphins Coach Jimmy Johnson
“Zach Thomas ranks as one of my favorite players of all time. Having coached 10 Hall of Fame players in my career, I believe Zach deserves to be in that group. Zach was a coach’s dream as a leader and a player. I never had any player that prepared himself as well as Zach. He belongs in the Hall.”
Former Dolphins Coach Dave Wannstedt
“Of all the players I coached in 40 years of coaching, I never had a player who was a coach on the field as much as Zach. In the end, that is what made him so special. Having a player with his ability to play at a high level every play was rare. He was as valuable on third down when our opponents were throwing the ball as much as he was on first down when they were running it. To have a player like Zach who understood the game and then was able to carry it to the field for 60 minutes is very, very unique and Zach is one of the few who falls into that category. That’s why he is deserving as any player I have been around to make the Hall of Fame.”
Former Dolphins Teammate Dan Marino
“Everything about Zach said Hall of Fame. His statistics, how he played, the winning defenses he led, the Pro Bowls and his knowledge of the game all jump out at you. He was not only certain to be in the right spot and get to the ball, but he would get everyone else lined up before the snap. He was the quarterback of that defense and he made his teammates better. Even though I was a veteran when Zach arrived in 1996, I started looking at how he worked every day and how he prepared and it made you want to improve. You looked at his example and said, ‘l want to work like that guy.’ And then I saw him play and develop and he got better over 12 years and I soon recognized he was one of the greats of his time.”
Former Dolphins Teammate Jason Taylor
“Zach was hands down one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. He was the captain of our defense and made every one of us better on every play. Nobody worked harder; nobody prepared more, and if you didn’t see that first-hand on a daily basis, you certainly saw the results on Sundays. Zach is absolutely deserving of a gold jacket and his place in history.”
Hall of Fame Linebacker Ray Lewis
“I first met Zach as a friend. Then I met the warrior. Year after year, Zach showed to the world how to play the middle linebacker position. He wasn’t the biggest or fastest, but his instincts, passion and knowledge of the game always impressed me. Sideline to sideline, there are not many linebackers that I have ever seen better than Zach.”
Hall of Fame Center Kevin Mawae
“Zach Thomas was my nemesis. My first year with the Jets before the first game we played each other, Bill Parcells told me in front of my entire team, ‘If you don’t block Thomas, we won’t win the game.’ And for the next 16 matchups, I never forgot that. Zach was one of – if not the smartest — players I ever faced. He loved the game, had fun when he played and brought the best out in me. When people ask me, ‘Who is not in the Hall of Fame that I think should be?’ — it’s easy for me, number 54 from the Miami Dolphins.”