Derrick Thomas hailed as 'larger than life'
By Lori Wood Habiger
Catholic Key reporter
KANSAS CITY - Hours after the unexpected death Feb. 8 of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Thomas, 33, in a Miami hospital, officials in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph shared their reactions.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland said, "It happens rarely, but Derrick epitomized Kansas City. Always larger than life, he terrified quarterbacks, excited fans and brought hope to children. Both on and off the field he will be missed. Our city is the poorer for his passing."
Tony Severino, head football coach at Rockhurst High School, echoed the thoughts of many when he said Thomas' death was "a real loss." He commended Thomas' charitable work in the Kansas City community.
Thomas was a positive role model for all children, he said.
"You have to look at his career from two standpoints," Severino said. "You have Derrick being a role model on the field in his early years here in Kansas City, and then you have him becoming a role model off the field, in the community, in the last few years."
St. Pius X High School head football coach Rick Byers knew Thomas personally through working at football camps for children where Thomas was a familiar face.
He said the children at the camps seemed to love Thomas. "He was just like a big teddy bear. All the kids wanted to be around him - they wanted to hang on him - not because he was a professional football player so much as because of his demeanor. He was a really approachable person."