View Full Version : DT Story from South Florida

01-12-2005, 09:20 AM
Don't think this has been posted, this story in the sports section of Yahoo this AM:

Derrick ripple effect' still felt in South Florida
By LINDA ROBERTSON, lrobertson@herald.com

Miriam Williams was in her Palmetto Middle School office advising a troubled student Tuesday, as she has most days during her 35 years as a teacher and counselor. She told the teenager about a former reclamation project, Derrick Thomas, who went from juvenile burglar and vandal to a nine-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker beloved for his philanthropic devotion to the cause of literacy.

Right in the middle of her talk, Williams was interrupted by news. The NFL Hall of Fame announced Thomas was among 15 finalists for election to football's shrine. For Williams, it was one of those providential moments.

"It's the Derrick ripple effect," she said. "His presence is still felt. He sends reminders all the time."

The Hall of Fame nomination is another posthumous honor for Thomas, the pride of Perrine. He and four others with South Florida ties have a chance at being immortalized in bronze in Canton, Ohio. Thomas, among the all-time sack leaders, might not have the credentials of Dan Marino, but he is the sentimental favorite.


Thomas died five years ago at age 33. He had finished his 11th season with the Kansas City Chiefs when his Chevy Suburban flipped on an icy Missouri highway, and he was paralyzed from the chest down. Two weeks later, after being transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital, he died from a pulmonary embolism.

The outpouring of grief in Kansas City and Miami came not just from football people but from all sorts of regular people touched by the big smile of the big man. Especially kids. Thomas saw himself in the tough but sensitive youngsters who considered school a waste of time. He was 5 when his father, an Air Force captain, was shot down in Vietnam. If not for a stint at the Dade Marine Institute and the guidance of relatives, teachers and coaches, he would have wound up in jail, he said.

He became a star at South Miami High, Alabama and K.C., and promised Williams he would promote what came to be his passion -- reading.


He once gave a speech thanking Williams at a banquet attended by Paul Tagliabue and the U.S. Secretary of Education. The speech inspired the creation of the NFL's Teacher of the Year program. He spent his Saturdays at libraries, hooking kids on books. He gave money for scholarships from his Third and Long Foundation.

"He had much more work to do," Williams said. "Some lights burn very brightly but very briefly."

Williams makes weekly visits to Thomas' grave site. She went on New Year's Day, when Thomas would have turned 38.

"I go to vent," she said. "I'm still upset about him not wearing a seat belt. But I'll also tell him how proud he would be about lots of things."

Such as his daughter, Burgandie, 13, who ended up in Williams' summer school class last year and became a voracious reader. Williams believes Thomas deserves Hall of Fame recognition because his example ripples through many neighborhoods.

She recalled lecturing him at school. "At 13, he was already 6-2 and I'm 5-3," she said. "He'd be looking down at me, and his contagious smile would broaden, and I'd be looking up at him, and I couldn't help but smile."

That's still the case for Williams, five years after Thomas died too soon.

01-12-2005, 09:24 AM
man, i miss D.T. we all do. He would still probably be playing, lighting a fire under peoples asses... man.

God Bless you D.T.

Radar Chief
01-12-2005, 09:33 AM
Kewl. Hope he gets in, but donít know that he will just yet.

01-12-2005, 09:46 AM
The Rat aint the same without Donkey teeth...

And, we haven't been the same since DT left us.

~Funny how this thing works.

01-12-2005, 11:19 AM
Nice story.

go bo
01-12-2005, 01:22 PM
dt was such a great football player, we sometimes forget how much good he did off the field...

r.i.p. derrick...

01-12-2005, 01:42 PM

R.I.P. Derrick