The Ghost Of Derrick Thomas

By Jerold Wells Jr.
Updated: September 14, 2005

MINNESOTA — The ghost of Derrick Thomas still haunts me. Being the child of a military man, my nomadic adolescent years positioned me in Junction City, Kansas during the early 1990’s….also known as the halcyon days of the greatest linebacker in Kansas City Chiefs history.

Derrick Thomas was a destructive force in the mold of Lawrence Taylor; a linebacker who combined speed, quickness, agility and raw power to create a fearsome defensive playmaker. His ghost still haunts me because I see someone like him.

I see someone who may never etch his name in the history books for most sacks in game, but will bring back the fear and loathing once reserved for the star linebacker of the Kansas City Chiefs.

In Kansas, their are two sports teams that commandeer respect. The Kansas Jayhawks and the Kansas City Chiefs. In the history of Kansas Basketball there has never been a player who exemplified dominance like Wilt Chamberlain. The 7-foot center dominated his sport both as an amateur and a professional and is known, even now, as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Now imagine with me if, in the prime of his career, Wilt Chamberlain died tragically in an automobile accident. Imagine if, before he could properly establish himself as a bona fide legend, his life was snatched away. Imagine people if Wilt Chamberlain suffered the same fate as # 58.

The ghost of Derrick Thomas still haunts me. Upon completion of a little “late summer cleaning”, I happened upon a newspaper clipping that my grandmother sent me almost 10 years ago. The article spoke of the personal shortcomings of professional athletes.

It spoke of the children # 58 left behind and the multiple women who conceived them. He said perhaps some of the praise heaped upon Derrick Thomas the football player should be coupled with criticism of Derrick Thomas the person.

(Funny thing is, while making his point the WHITE columnist didn’t mention the personal life of Mark Messier and his equally depressing number of children out of wedlock and their numerous mothers. I wonder why!!!)

My grandmother sent me the article as a warning; she said she never wanted to see an article like that written about me. She wanted me to conduct myself like a gentleman at all times and rest assured that all things done in the dark would be exposed to light. To know that all secrets told in confidence would be shouted from the mountaintops. I’d like to take this opportunity to warn as well.

I’d like to warn one Derrick Johnson. The ghost of Derrick Thomas still haunts me because I see some of him in you. I see the same type of disruptive nature, the same type of ball hawking skill, the same type of “un-blockable-ness.”

From your linebacker position you have the ability to change game plans and effect the outcome of any game you play in. Use these skills to write your own story. Establish your legacy as one who played hard and lived a respectable life.

Let your narrative be that of one of the greatest linebackers who ever played the game, yet managed to dodge the bullets of lust and lasciviousness. Be the example on and off the field that not even the great Derrick Thomas could be.

Such a task will not be easy #56. Few things in life are. Please know that fans of the Kansas City Chiefs have already embraced and in turn grieved over one Derrick. Similarly they will embrace you; don’t make them grieve again.