On December 9th, in New York City's Waldorf Astoria, the National Football Foundation inducted its 2014 class into the College Football Hall of Fame. The inductees in attendance were some of the greatest players to ever play the game.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Boselli, and John Sciarra were just a few of the players that made up this great class, but for Alabama fans, it was headlined by linebacker Derrick Thomas. Sadly, Thomas would not be there on this wonderful occasion to receive this long overdue honor. Thomas tragically died in 2000 due to complications stemming from a car accident. He was only 33.

In his short time on Earth, Thomas worked his way into being one of the best defensive players of all-time. During his senior season at Alabama, he broke the NCAA record for most sacks in a single season with 27. In the last decade, only ten players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft have more career sacks than Thomas' had in just his 1988 All-American season.

“It’s not a misprint. It’s real," said former Alabama head football coach Bill Curry on NFL Film's A Football Life. "His numbers were super human. He had the leverage, speed, and power to give him an almost unfair advantage over any ordinary mortal that tried to block him.”

Thomas was also a dominant force in the NFL. He won defensive rookie of the year after being drafted 4th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1989 NFL Draft. He established himself as being one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. In 1990, Thomas sacked Seahawks' quarterback Dave Krieg seven times in a single game. That's an NFL record that still stands today. He also owns five Chiefs records including most sacks in a career (126.5) and most career forced fumbles (41). In a career cut short by his shocking death, Thomas finished with nine Pro-Bowl selections,126.5 sacks, and 642 tackles.

On the field, Thomas will be remembered as an unstoppable force of nature. Off the field, he will be remembered as a loving father and philanthropist. In 1990, he founded the Third and Long Foundation, a program that helps under privileged children succeed in school and all walks of life. The Foundation's motto is "Striving To Sack Illiteracy". On the homepage of the Foundation's website, you will find a Derrick Thomas quote on what he hoped to achieve through the organization:

"A learned and literate person can go forth in society and be whomever or whatever he or she desires. Except for the inability to dream big, there are no boundaries to stop a literate person."

-Derrick Thomas, Kansas City Chiefs "58"

In 2009, the Kansas City Chiefs officially retired the number 58 in his honor. That same year, Derrick Thomas was officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth year of eligibility. At that point, he had received every posthumous honor possible except for an official induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Edith Morgan, mother of Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame player Derrick Thomas, looks at his framed jersey during a half-time ceremony. (Photo by John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT via Getty Images)

Thomas was finally inducted, yet you cannot help but ponder what took so long. Many believed he would be inducted in his first year of eligibility in 1998. The National Football Foundation has the following guidelines in order to be eligible for induction into the hall of fame:

  1. First and foremost, A player must have received first All-America recognition by a selector recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams.
  2. A player becomes eligible for consideration by the NFF's Honors Court 10 years after his last year of intercollegiate football played.
  3. While each nominee's football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and fellow man. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
  4. Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years*.

Thomas exceeded the criteria set forth by the National Football Foundation, but still was left out on a yearly basis. Family members, friends, and fans of Derrick Thomas could not understand why this was the case. Last March, Tide991.com talked to Derrick Thomas' oldest son, Derrion, about his father's absence in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Now that his father is finally inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Derrion weighed in on the induction and says that he has no negative feelings towards the National Football Foundation.

“I wouldn’t say that I have negative thoughts because there is usually some reason why." Derrion told Tide991.com. "Whether it is one particular instance or something that the committee saw that made them not want that person to be inducted. That might have angered me a little bit, but, with him being passed away for so many years, a lot of the players that are still living have a lot bigger push for them to be inducted because you want to see those guys get put in right away. Just the fact that the University (of Alabama), the alumni, and the fans got behind it the past couple of years and really made that push for him to get in was really heartwarming to see.”

Derrion Thomas, son of the late Derrick Thomas, and presenter Carl Peterson pose with the bust of Thomas at his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during the 2009 enshrinement ceremony at Fawcett Stadium. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The news that his father would be inducted brought both joy and sadness to Derrion. The long awaited honor had finally come, but, prior to the induction ceremony, he feared that people would slowly forget Derrick Thomas' legacy.

"It was really emotional that this might be the last (honor). You always think about, ‘Will people start to forget?’ because once you stop putting an image in front of people then people start to move on. So just trying to swallow that maybe after this it will start to fade or the image of him being an amazing football player will kind of go away."

It was at the Waldorf Astoria for the ceremony that his uneasy feelings faded away, and he realized that his father has a lasting legacy that will live on for years to come.

"After being there (at the ceremony) and really thinking about, (I realized) that the fans around here and the fans at Alabama are so awesome. They have such a great tradition, and I do not think it was something that will go away really ever.”

Derrion's love for his father is very evident. His memories with Derrick Thomas off the field are the ones he will treasure most, but even he cannot help but recognize that his father was one of the greatest pass rushers of all-time.

"Even putting my bias aside, when you look at what he was able to accomplish as an athlete and you look at it compared to other athletes in the same sport or position, his stats just stand out above most. You cannot help but put him in the argument of the best just based on his production and he was able to affect games and game plans.”

It is never easy for anyone to live in the shadow of an icon. However, he has embraced his father's legacy while also creating his very own. Derrion recently founded 58 Fitness, a health and fitness company designed to help others stay in shape and live a healthier lifestyle. The company's name comes from the number that Derrick Thomas wore while playing with the Kansas City Chiefs. Just like his father, Derrion hopes to make a difference by helping others. All of this was possible because of the inspiration he received from watching number 58.

“Well just him coming from what he came from in Alabama and not necessarily having the greatest opportunity, but making the most of it and going to college and getting a degree from the University of Alabama. Just knowing that he could go from that to one of the all-time greats gave me the idea that whatever I wanted to do in life was possible through hard work and dedication. Understanding that and understanding what type of work you he had to put in to get where he wanted to go because he spent hours and hours perfecting his film study."

"Just me being able to see that and understand what it took for him to get to that greatness status and to elevate yourself above most. That gave me the ability to build my own business and do what I wanted to do.”

An ecstatic Derrick Thomas picking up a young Derrion Thomas after a Kansas City Chiefs' game. (Photo courtesy of Derrion Thomas)