Canton will have to wait for Zach Thomas

Former Dolphins linebacker misses out on Pro Football Hall of Fame

MIAMI – There will be no bust for Zach Thomas in Canton, Ohio. At least not this year.

The former Miami Dolphins linebacker was not among the 15 modern-era finalists selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Instead, safety Steve Atwater, wide receiver and Fort Lauderdale native Isaac Bruce, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James and safety Troy Palamalu made the final cut Saturday on the eve of Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium, where Thomas played for the first 12 of his 13 NFL seasons. They will join former Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson, who is also being inducted with the class of 2020.

“I’ve said I was humbled and honored to be a finalist and I still feel that way,” Thomas said in a statement released by the Dolphins. “I’m disappointed that the knock on the door didn’t occur, but I’m happy for those who did make it.”

The 1996 fifth-round draft pick from Texas Tech 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. 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,” 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.

Johnson coached Thomas for four seasons before he retired after the 1999 season.

“Zach is probably the most coachable player I ever worked with, you know, college or pro,” Johnson told Local 10 News before the announcement. “He was always thoroughly prepared. We would leave the office 10 or 11 o’clock at night. Zach would still be there studying.”