Late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, highlighting a class of 14 players that also includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli.
Thomas was one of the Hall of Fame’s most obvious omissions and Alabama fans had been growing increasingly annoyed by the wait in recent years. He played for the Tide from 1985-88, and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker as a senior when he had 27 sacks. He finished his career with 52 sacks, a school record.
He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and made nine Pro Bowls.
Thomas died in 2000 after an automobile accident left him paralyzed. He was 33. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
The new Hall of Fame class announced Thursday by the National Football Foundation at a news conference in Dallas also included a couple of Heisman Trophy finalists and two of the best offensive linemen of the early 1990s.
Tomlinson led the nation in rushing in his final two seasons at TCU (1999 and 2000) and finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2000.
“This is a great honor,” said Tomlinson, who attended the news conference. “As a kid you never set out to land in the College Football Hall of Fame. You’re just playing with your buddies, having fun, playing a game that you love.”
Tomlinson thanked TCU for giving him a chance.
“TCU was the first school to offer me a scholarship,” he said. “I didn’t have many, but they believed in me.”
Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton was the Heisman runner-up to Ron Dayne in 1999.
Boselli played tackle at Southern California from 1991-94 and was the second overall draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995. Louisiana Tech tackle Willie Roaf was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior in 1992.
Sterling Sharpe held virtually every receiving record when he left South Carolina after the 1987 season.
The rest of the players who will be inducted during the National Football Foundation’s awards banquet in December are: North Carolina cornerback Dre Bly; Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz; Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan; Maine linebacker John Huard; Stanford running back Darrin Nelson; UCLA quarterback John Sciarra; McNeese State defensive back Leonard Smith; and Mississippi tight end Wesley Walls.
The two coaches who will join the Hall of Fame are Mike Bellotti, who led Oregon from 1995-2008, and Jerry Moore, who coached at North Texas, Texas Tech and Appalachian State.
Conlan, who was also in attendance, helped led Penn State and coach Joe Paterno to the 1986 national championship.
“It’s been a tough time the last few years at Penn State,” he said, fighting back tears as he thanked “The late, great Joe Paterno. We miss you, Coach.”