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Zach Thomas elected to Hall of Fame 2023 class

The Miami Dolphins legendary linebacker has finally made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Miami Dolphins v New York Giants

54 is finally heading to Canton!

Legendary linebacker Zach Thomas is receiving the recognition he deserves. On Thursday it was announced Thomas will be a member of the 2023 class inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is an honor long-overdue for one of the best linebackers to play the game and it finally puts Thomas in Canton where he belongs.

The Miami Dolphins selected the “undersized” Thomas out of Texas Tech in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Considered a special teams prospect, Thomas surprised during training camp and the preseason, eventually moving past presumed starting middle linebacker Jack Del Rio, who was released in favor of the rookie.

Too small and slow to play on defense, Thomas started all 16 games for Miami as a rookie, recording 154 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and three interceptions with a touchdown. He led the league in tackles in 2002 and 2006.

In his 12 seasons with Miami, Thomas played in 168 games - all starts - totaling 1,640 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, and 17 interceptions with four touchdowns. He locked down the middle of Miami’s defense as he was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro selection, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. He was named the 1996 AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, twice was selected as the NFL Alumni Linebacker of the team (1998, 2006), and was named to the NFL’s All-Decades Team for the 2000s.

He averaged 9.7 tackles per game over his Dolphins career, with an average of 155 tackles per 16 games.

Thomas played in final season in 2008 with the Dallas Cowboys appearing in all 16 games with 14 starts. He added 94 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery that season.

He started eight playoff games in his career, all with Miami, recording 60 tackles with one sack and one fumble recovery.

The Dolphins have unofficially retired Thomas’ number, as no one has worn his iconic 54 jersey since he left Miami. Hopefully, with this election to the Hall of Fame, they will make the retirement official, doing a joint ceremony to also retire his teammate, defensive end Jason Taylor’s 99 at the same time. With Thomas and Taylor leading a dominant defense, the Dolphins’ total defense was a top-ten unit from 1998 through 2004.

This was Thomas’ tenth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. He has been a finalist for the fourth year in a row. During his induction speech last year, Hall of Fame and former New York Jets center Kevin Mawae brought up Thomas, saying, “Zach Thomas was my nemesis. My first year with the Jets before my first game we played against each other, ill 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 player I ever faced. He loved the game, had fun when he played and brought the best out of me. When people ask me who’s not in the Hall of Fame and that I think should be here, it’s an easy one for me: number 54 from the Miami Dolphins.”

Last year, Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher joined in on the discussion of why Thomas has continued to not be in the Hall of Fame.

This year, number 54 is finally heading to Canton. Congratulations Zach Thomas!