Derrick Thomas' legacy is sealed

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Kansas City is smiling Saturday afternoon.

Derrick Thomas is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

The late Kansas City outside linebacker was one of six players elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday. Thomas died in February 2000 at the age of 33 following complications from an auto accident. He was still an active player at the time of his death.

He was the only new Hall of Famer to spend the majority of his career in the AFC West. Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe, who was a finalist in his first year of eligibility, did not get elected. This week, Sharpe said Thomas was the best outside linebacker he ever faced.

Many believe Thomas' election was long overdue.

Thomas, who is the 10th member of the Chiefs to be elected into the Hall, was arguably the most feared pass-rusher in the NFL during the 1990s. He had 126.5 sacks in his NFL career, which is 11th on the all-time list and is a Chiefs record. He also holds club records for career safeties (3), forced fumbles (45) and fumble recoveries (19).

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt and some members of the Thomas family represented the late linebacker in Tampa on Saturday.

"This is an exciting day for Chiefs fans across the country and an exciting day for our family," Hunt said in a press release put out by the team.

"Derrick Thomas was a cornerstone of the modern era of the Chiefs, and one of the most feared pass-rushers of his generation. We are thrilled with his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009. His outstanding statistics and play on the field made him deserving of pro football's highest individual honor, but -- just as importantly -- he was a hall of famer in the Kansas City community. Derrick's legacy of community involvement is among the finest for any player in Chiefs history, and he will be remembered for contributions like the Third and Long Foundation and his work to help others long after his induction ceremony."