PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas is among 25 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas joins former defensive end Simeon Rice as a two-time modern-era semifinalist.
The 1996 fifth-round draft pick from Texas Tech spent the first 12 of his 13 NFL seasons with the Dolphins.
One of the greatest linebackers in franchise history, Thomas beat out veteran middle linebacker Jack Del Rio -- two years removed from a Pro Bowl season -- as a rookie in training camp and went on to start all 16 games for the Dolphins in 1996. His emergence signaled the end of Del Rio's playing career.
"Jack Del Rio would still be here and still be our starter were it not for the play of Zach Thomas," then-first-year head coach Jimmy Johnson said at the time.
A seven-time Pro Bowl player, Thomas recorded 1,720 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 17 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and four touchdowns in his NFL career.
After being released by the Dolphins in 2008, Thomas spent his final season with the Dallas Cowboys. He signed a one-day contract with Miami in 2010 to retire as a Dolphin.
Several other notable players with Florida ties are also semifinalists.
Former Miami Hurricanes and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is a first-time semifinalist, as is former Florida Gators and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor.
Running back Edgerrin James is a semifinalist for the sixth consecutive year. The former Hurricanes star spent 11 seasons in the NFL with the Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. He is the Colts' all-time leader in career rushing yards and touchdowns.
Former Florida State Seminoles and Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler is a semifinalist for the third year in a row.
To be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a player must not have participated in a game for five consecutive seasons. The list will be pared down to 15 finalists in January.