Legacy of Chiefs' Derrick Thomas lives on 20 years later

Posted at 9:40 AM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 10:40:59-05

MIAMI — Days before the 20th anniversary of losing Derrick Thomas, the legacy of the Miami native and Chiefs star lives on in Kansas City.

Five decades since their last trip to the Super Bowl, Thomas’ daughter, Burgundie is thrilled the Chiefs have made it this far.

“Because they wanted it. They showed they wanted it and look where we’re at, Miami," she said.

She admits she finds the timing bittersweet.

“It was, you know, hard but at the same time its a blessing,” Burgundie Thomas said. “I'm so happy that they’re finally here. I just wish he would have been here to see it. Even if he’s retired, I wish he would have been here.”

Thomas died days after a car crash in 2000. More than 20,000 fans went to Arrowhead to pay their respects.

“He wasn’t only a football player. He was a human. He cared about the community,” Burgundie Thomas said.

That care was something he showed through his “Third and Long” foundation.

“His whole life was these kids and making sure they could read, write, and experience life,” said Donna Woolard with the Third and Long Foundation.

Woolard was a teacher when she connected with Thomas. Three decades later, the foundation is still helping local children through literacy programs and scholarships.

Thomas’ close teammate and friend Neil Smith carries on the work.

“In thirty years, we still see 58 kids every year,” Woolard said. “When he passed, I just felt like he always kept saying ‘you can’t give up and you can’t quit!’ And none of us have."

“I love that, I love that it keeps him alive,” Burgundie Thomas said.

She still relishes spotting fans in the stands wearing her father’s jersey, number 58.

“We don’t only keep him alive with us, but the city of Kansas City keeps him alive as well," she said.