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Thurman Lee Thomas (born May 16, 1966 in Houstonmarker, Texasmarker) is a former American football running back who spent most of his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills. Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker in 2007 and into the College Football Hall of Famemarker in 2008.

Collegiate career

Thomas grew up playing football on the Missouri City Junior High School (now Missouri City Middle School) and Willowridge High School teams before attending college at Oklahoma State Universitymarker where he was a teammate of Barry Sanders. At Oklahoma State, Thomas had 897 rushes for 4,595 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 21 100-yard rushing games. He was also a Heisman Trophy candidate in his senior year. He was a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in 1985 and 1987. In the 1987 Sun Bowl, Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-33 victory over West Virginia, keeping Barry Sanders on the sidelines for the majority of the game. Thomas left OSU as the school's all-time leading rusher and his number 34 is one of only three jerseys retired at Oklahoma State. Sanders would replace Thomas as starter the next year in 1988.

Professional career

A knee injury damaged Thomas's certain first round pick status and caused him to slip into second round (40th overall) of the 1988 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills, their first choice in the draft. Thomas is well known as part of the offense that included Jim Kelly and Andre Reed, which led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances.

Thomas was the AFC rushing leader in 1990, 1991, and 1993. He was voted to the All-Pro team in 1990 and 1991, was selected to 5 straight Pro Bowls from 1989-1993, and was named NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1991, after becoming the 11th player in NFL history to finish a season with over 2,000 all-purpose yards. Currently, he is 12th on the NFL all-time list for most rushing yards in a career.

Thomas currently holds the all-time Buffalo Bills rushing record with 11,938 yards and the team record for yards from scrimmage with 16,532. He is also 4th overall in team scoring. Overall, Thomas finished his 13 seasons with 12,074 rushing yards, 472 receptions for 4,458 yards, and 88 touchdowns (65 rushing and 23 receiving). His 472 receptions were especially impressive considering he was almost never used as a receiver out of the backfield in college. In his four years at Oklahoma State, he caught 2 passes for 15 yards. He is one of six players (Jim Brown, Lenny Moore, Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, and Herschel Walker) to exceed 60 TDs rushing and 20 TDs receiving.

Thomas is the only player in NFL history to lead the league in total yards from scrimmage for four consecutive seasons. He is one of only six running backs to have over 400 receptions and 10,000 yards rushing. Walter Payton, Marshall Faulk, Marcus Allen, Tiki Barber, and LaDainian Tomlinson are the other five. Thomas is also one of five running backs to have rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 consecutive seasons along with Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Tomlinson.

Thomas also set NFL playoff records with the most career points (126), touchdowns (21), and consecutive playoff games with a touchdown (9). Overall, he rushed for 1,442 yards and caught 76 passes for 672 yards in his 21 postseason games. In a 1989 playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, Thomas recorded 13 receptions for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns, which was a postseason record for receptions by a running back and tied tight end Kellen Winslow's record for most receptions in a playoff game. He is also the first player ever to score a touchdown in 4 consecutive Super Bowls.

Thurman Thomas played for the Buffalo Bills for 12 seasons. When the Bills ran out of money under their salary cap in 2000, Thomas signed with the arch-rival Miami Dolphins. He suffered a knee injury on November 12, 2000 against the San Diego Chargers which ended his NFL career. After deciding to retire, Thurman signed a one-day contract on February 27, 2001 with Buffalo so that he could retire as a Bill.

Thurman Thomas was first eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Famemarker in 2006. In that year, he made it to the list of ten finalists, but was not one of the six players elected to the Hall that year. He was selected on February 3, 2007, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Super Bowl XXV

Thomas had an outstanding performance in Super Bowl XXV, rushing for 135 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 5 passes for 55 yards. He would have almost certainly won the Super Bowl MVP award, but his team lost the game 20-19 when kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47 yard field goal attempt with eight seconds remaining.

Some fans and sports writers, such as Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman[95783], have argued that Thomas had the best performance of the game, so therefore he should have won the MVP award even though his team lost. He had far more yards and catches than New York Giants running back Ottis Anderson, who won the MVP, finishing the game with 102 rushing yards, 1 reception for 7 yards, and a touchdown. Also a player winning the Super Bowl MVP award on a losing team is not unprecedented; Chuck Howley accomplished this feat in Super Bowl V.

His performance in the Bills other posteseason games that year were also superb. He rushed for a total of 255 yards, caught 8 passes for 99 yards, and scored 3 touchdowns in their 2 playoff games prior to the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XXVI

Thomas is noted for a mishap in Super Bowl XXVI. Thomas has a pre-game ritual where he places his helmet at the 34-yard line prior to a game. Prior to the game, his helmet was moved in order for the stage to be set up for Harry Connick, Jr. to perform the national anthem. This caused Thomas to worry about where his helmet was, causing him to miss Buffalo's first two offensive plays (one was a botched running play to Kenneth Davis, the other was a weak run to Davis). He went on to gain just 13 rushing yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He also caught 4 passes for 27 yards. On August 8, 2009, during teammate Bruce Smith's Hall of Fame induction speech, while he was acknowledging his relationship with Thomas, Bruce proclaimed "I hid your helmet!". Following the ceremony on NFL Total Access, Bruce indicated this was merely a joke not in fact the case.

Super Bowl XXVII

For the second year in a row, Thomas had a dismal performance in the Super Bowl. He scored the first points of the game for his team on a 2-yard touchdown run, but was limited to just 19 rushing yards on 11 carries and 4 receptions for 10 yards in Buffalo's 52-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He also committed a costly fumble that was converted into a Dallas touchdown.

However, it must be noted that Thomas was still recovering from a hip injury he suffered in the first game of the postseason. As a result, running back Kenneth Davis got the majority of carries in the game.

Super Bowl XXVIII

Thomas had yet another disappointing Super Bowl performance in this game, which the Bills lost to the Cowboys 30-13. He scored the only touchdown of the game for his team, but was limited to just 37 rushing yards on 16 carries. He was a reliable target as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 7 passes for 52 yards but he lost 2 fumbles that led to 10 Dallas points. The second fumble came at the start of the second half, and it was returned for a game tying touchdown that swung the momentum for the Cowboys.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

On February 3, 2007, Thomas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas joined his former quarterback Jim Kelly, wide receiver James Lofton, Defensive End Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy, in the Hall. Thomas was enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the weekend of August 4-5, 2007.

Personal

Thomas moved back to Buffalo in 2007 with his wife, Patti and three daughters, Olivia, Angel, and Annika, and one son, Thurman III. He is the President and CEO of Thurman Thomas Sports Training in Elma, New York. His oldest daughter, Olivia, attends school at the University of Florida in Gainesville. [95784]

In 2008, Thomas acquired a share of the Rochester Raiders indoor football team, and will also be collaborating with the other Raiders owners to bring an af2 team to Buffalo in 2009. The ownership group is also said to be recruiting Jim Kelly as a part-owner of the Buffalo franchise.

References

  1. Sports 2000 - The Sporting News looks at the past, present and future of sports



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