We have reached that special time on the calendar where we all get to wonder why Zach Thomas is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yesterday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 25 semifinalists for the 2021 induction class. There in the middle of the list for the third straight year is Thomas, with the former Dolphins linebacker reaching the finalists list last year for the first time.
Thomas not being in the Hall of Fame is a slight that needs to be corrected. He was a dominating middle linebacker for 12 years in South Florida. He was a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team, joining Derrick Brooks, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Joey Porter, and DeMarcus Ware. Brooks, Lewis, and Urlacher have all been elected to the Hall of Fame, while Porter and Thomas have not. Ware will be eligible for the first time in 2022.
Selected in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Thomas was an undersized middle linebacker who quickly established himself as a dominant piece of Miami’s defense. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and two-time Second-Team All-Pro selection. He finished his career with 17,27 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, and 17 interceptions with four touchdowns in 184 games.
In comparison, Urlacher, who was selected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, recorded 1,354 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries with two touchdowns, and 22 interceptions with two touchdowns in 182 career games.
Joining Thomas on the semifinalists list this year are cornerback Eric Allen, defensive end Jared Allen, tackle Willie Anderson, cornerback/safety Ronde Barber, linebacker Cornelius Bennett, tackle Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, guard Alan Faneca, safety Rodney Harrison, wide receiver Torry Holt, wde receiver Calvin Johnson, safety John Lynch, quarterback Peyton Manning, linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr., linebacker Sam Mills, defensive end/defensive tackle Richard Seymour, wide receiver/special teams Steve Tasker, running back Fred Taylor, wide receiver Hines Ward, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis, cornerback/safety Charles Woodson, safety Darren Woodson, and defensive tackle Bryant Young. Jared Allen, Johnson, Manning, and Charles Woodson are all in their first year of eligibility.
The selection process will next narrow the list to 15 finalists, plus the Head Coach Committee’s recommendation of Tom Flores, the Contributor Committee’s recommendation of Bill Nunn, and the Senior Committee’s recommendation of Drew Pearson. The 18 combined finalists will then be presented to the Selection Committee, with the induction class determined by reception of 80 percent or more of “yes” votes. The inductees will be announced during Super Bowl weekend in Tampa, with enshrinement in the Canton, Ohio based Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 8, 2021. The 2020 Hall of Fame Class will be inducted on August 7 following postponement of their ceremony due to COVID-19.