Zach Thomas and his presenter, Jimmy Johnson, slowly removed the cover from his bust Saturday on stage at Tom Benson Stadium. Thomas gave it a thumbs up and said the artist had an easy job because “all he had to do was make my head a square.”
The former Dolphins linebacker, who retired after the 2008 season, had a long journey to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At 5 foot 11, 228 pounds, Thomas was considered too small and was overlooked for most of his football career.
“He’s not your prototypical, big, strong linebacker that runs like the wind,” Johnson said in his pre-recorded presentation, “but he performed.”
The Dolphins made him the 154th pick in the 1996 draft, the 19th linebacker taken in a class that includes Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis.
But Thomas made it to Canton with seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pros and and the fifth-most tackles in NFL history.
“My life has taken a lot of dirt roads to get here,” Thomas said in his speech.
On Aug. 5, 1996, Johnson told Thomas he was the starting linebacker. It’s a date the linebacker will never forget. He now will never forget Aug. 5, 2023, either.
“This is a dream come true,” Thomas said in closing his 12-minute speech. “A small town country boy is standing on this stage with all these legends behind me. My football career has come full circle, from Aug. 5, 1996, being given that one chance to Aug. 5, 2023, being forever enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”