FILE -- This is a 1999 file photo showing Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas. Late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, Thursday, May 22, 2014, highlighting a class of 14 players that also includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli. Thomas was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and made nine Pro Bowls. (AP Photo/NFL)
Edith Morgan, mother of Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame player Derrick Thomas, looks at his framed jersey during a half-time ceremony. The Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 44-13, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday, December 6, 2009. (Photo by John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)
Darrion Thomas, left, son of former Kansas City Chiefs player Derrick Thomas, and presenter Carl Peterson, right, stand with a bronze bust of Darrion's father during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
15 Oct 1988: Linebacker Derrick Thomas of the Alabama Crimson Tide lines up during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Alabama won the game 28-20.
FILE -- Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas walks off the field in Anaheim, Calif., after the Chiefs defeated the Los Angeles Rams 27-20, in this Nov. 10, 1991 photo. Thomas died Tuesday Feb. 8, 2000 in a hospital in Miami where he was being treated for injuries from a car crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down, a hospital spokeswoman said. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
KANSAS CITY, MO - UNDATED: Linebacker Derrick Thomas #58 of the Kansas City Chiefs watches the game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas (58) celebrates a missed field goal by New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (4) in the final seconds Sunday, Oct. 10, 1999, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The field goal would have won the game for the Patriots, but the Chiefs won 16-14. (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa)
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas (58) carries a fan's flag around the stadium as fans cheer him and the Chiefs victory Sunday, Dec. 24, 1995, in Kansas City, Mo. By beating the Seattle Seahawks 26-3, the Chiefs clinched the home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs next month. (AP Photo/Joe Ledford)
Kansas City Chiefs' linebacker Derrick Thomas is seen before the playoff game with the Miami Dolphins, in Miami, Fla., Jan. 9, 1991. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
28 Nov 1999: A close up of Derrick Thomas #58 of the Kansas City Chiefs as he looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 37-34.
N364158 02: Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas died Tuesday morning, February 8, 2000 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in White Plains, New York. Thomas was recovering from a car crash that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Thomas is pictured during a game in Jacksonville, Florida on September 13, 1998. (Photo by Bernie Nunez)
6 Sep 1998: Linebacker Derrick Thomas #57 of the Kansas City Chiefs in action during the game against the Oakland Raiders at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 28-8. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport
4 Oct 1998: Outside lineback Derrick Thomas #58 of the Kansas City Chiefs sits on the field in the rain during a game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Seahawks 17-6.
DENVER, : Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway (7) throws under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas (R) in the first half of their 06 December game at Mile High Stadium in Denver, CO. Denver went into the game with a record of 13-0. AFP PHOTO/Mark LEFFINGWELL (Photo credit should read MARK LEFFINGWELL/AFP/Getty Images)
Kansas City Chief's Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas' number was retired at Sunday's game, and a presentation was made to his mother, Edith Morgan, right, by Kanas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt during a special halftime ceremony during halftime of their game against the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
23 Sept 2001: A memorial for the late Kansas City Chief Derrick Thomas is posted in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Allsport
Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt looks on during a half-time ceremony to retire the jersey number of Hall of Fame player Derrick Thomas. The Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 44-13, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday, December 6, 2009. (Photo by John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)
Darrion Thomas, left, son of former Kansas City Chiefs player Derrick Thomas, and presenter Carl Peterson, right, unveil a bronze bust of Darrion's father during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, in Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Members or relatives of Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2009, from left, Lucille Hester, sister of the late Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes, former Pittsburgh Steelers' Rod Woodson, former Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, and Edith Morgan, mother of the late Kansas City Chief's Derrick Thomas pose for a photo after a news conference Saturday afternoon Jan. 31, 2009 in Tampa, Fla.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Linebacker Derrick Thomas of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes a tackle during a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Byrant Denny Stadium in Tuscawosa, Alabama.
Linebacker Derrick Thomas of the Alabama Crimson Tide sheds a block during a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.
Comedian Bob Hope poses with the Associated Press 1988 All-America football team on Monday, Dec. 12, 1988 in North Miami Beach where he and they are taping segments for his upcoming Christmas Special, to air on December 17 on NBC. From left to right, are, ground level ? (10) Markus Paul, Syracuse defensive back, (18) Louis Oliver, Univ. of Florida defensive back; First Row ? (21) Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State running back; (2) Deion Sanders, Florida State Univ. defensive back; (89); Broderick Thomas, Nebraska defensive end; (55) Derrick Thomas, Alabama linebacker; (25) Darren Lewis, Texas A & M running back; (22) Kendall Trainor, Arkansas place kicker; (66) Andy Heck, Notre Dame tackle; (33) Keith De Long, Tennessee linebacker; (83) Wayne Martin, Arkansas defensive lineman. Standing?(74) Tracy Rocker, Auburn defensive lineman; (30) Frank Stams, Notre Dame defensive end; (81) Tyrone Thurman, Texas Tech, kick return specialist, Bob Hope; (42) Mike Stonebreaker, Notre Dame linebacker, (60) Mike Utley, Washington State tackle; (4) Steve Walsh, Miami quarterback; (68) Jake Young, Nebraska center; (68) Anthony Phillips, Oklahoma guard. Back row ? (80) Wesley Walls, Mississippi tight end; (60) Mark Messner, Michigan defensive lineman and (85) Keith English, Colorado punter. (AP Photo/Mare Pesetsky)
Three All-American football players tour Toshogu, the grave of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the model of the novel "Shogun", in Nikko, north of Tokyo, Jan. 12, 1989. They are, from left: Nebraska linebacker Broderick Thomas; Houston wide receiver Jason Phillips and Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas. The trio is in town with U.S. collegiate all stars for Monday's Japan Bowl East-West football game. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)
Texas A&M quarterback Lance Pavlas (12) is sacked for a 4-yard loss by Derrick Thomas (55) of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Dec. 1, 1988. The action is from the first period of the game, dubbed the "Hurricane Bowl" at College Station, Tex. (AP Photo/David Breslauer)
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BY RALPH D. RUSSO
AP COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER
The late great Derrick Thomas grew up in Miami and played his entire 11-year NFL career in Kansas City.
In between he spent four years at the University of Alabama, dominating on defense as few players have ever done in college football history.
"Alabama meant everything to Derrick, even after he moved to Kansas City," Edith Morgan, Thomas' mother, said Thursday. "He still had his Alabama (license) plates and went back to Alabama whenever he could."
It took longer than Crimson Tide fans would have liked, but Thomas was elected Thursday to the College Football Hall of Fame, highlighting a class of 14 players that also includes LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli.
Thomas, who died in 2000 at age 33 shortly after an automobile accident left him paralyzed, was one of the Hall of Fame's most obvious omissions. Alabama fans had been growing increasingly annoyed by the wait in recent years.
His credentials could not be argued against. After choosing to attend Alabama over Oklahoma, Thomas played for the Tide from 1985-88. He 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 really, really fond of Alabama and he loved the Crimson Tide, not only the school but the city of Tuscaloosa itself," Morgan said.
Thomas was drafted fourth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1989 and made nine Pro Bowls. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
The new College Football Hall of Fame class announced by the National Football Foundation at a news conference in Dallas also featured 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 before going on to a long NFL career.
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 lead 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 Paterno. "We miss you, Coach," he said.