This Day in College Football History – May 16th

Thurman Thomas  (born May 16, 1966) is a former college and professional football player who was a running back who spent most of his National Football League (NFL) career with the Buffalo Bills. Thomas was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Thomas was an important part of the Bills “no-huddle offense” that won 4 consecutive AFC championships. Thomas was born in Houston, Texas. He grew up playing football on the Missouri City Junior High School (now Missouri City Middle School) and Willowridge High School. During the 82-83 season at Willowridge High School, Thomas led the football team to a Texas Class 4A State Title. Thomas attended college at Oklahoma State University where he was a teammate of running back Barry Sanders. At Oklahoma State, Thomas had 897 rushes for 4,595 yards, 43 touchdowns, 5,146 total yards, and 21 100-yard rushing games. He was also a Heisman Trophy candidate in his senior year, finishing seventh in voting.  He was a first team selection on the College Football All-America Team in 1985 and 1987. Thomas led the Big Eight in rushing and scoring in 1985 and 1987 and was voted the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year both seasons. Thurman Thomas starred as a sophomore in 1985 when he posted 1,553 yards rushing, fourth best in the country. Between his sophomore and junior seasons he suffered a tear to his ACL in his left knee, missing some games during the 1986 season. He bounced back his senior season, rushing for 1,613 yards and finishing third nationally in rushing. From 1984-87, Thomas carried the ball a remarkable 898 times for the Cowboys, the most rushing attempts in a career in Oklahoma State history.  In the 1987 Sun Bowl, Thomas ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-33 comeback victory over West Virginia, keeping freshman 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.  In 2008, Thomas was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

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. In the first three seasons of his career, Thomas had a total of 12 games with at least 100 yards rushing. The Bills won every one of those games. In 1989 and 1990, his combined total yards from scrimmage was 3,742. This was more than 200 yards better than any other player in the NFL. 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 16,279 over 12 years. He is also 4th overall in team scoring. Overall, Thomas finished his 13 seasons (his 13th season he played for Miami) with 12,074 rushing yards, 472 receptions for 4,458 yards, and 88 touchdowns (65 rushing and 23 receiving) with 16,532 total yards from scrimmage.

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. At the time of his retirement, his 76 postseason receptions ranked him 4th all time, and to this day he remains the only running back among the NFL’s top 10 leaders in that category.

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 archrival 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 Fame 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.  On February 3, 2007, Thomas was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas joined his former quarterback Jim Kelly and wide receiver James Lofton in the Hall. Thomas was enshrined into the Hall of Fame during the weekend of August 4–5, 2007.

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