Zach Thomas has been elected to the Class of 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former Miami Dolphins linebacker became the 11th player or coach in franchise history to earn the distinguished honor.
Read up on what former coaches, teammates, opponents and members of the Miami Dolphins organization had to say about Zach Thomas and his election to the Class of 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame:
MANAGING GENERAL PARTNER STEPHEN ROSS
"On behalf of the entire Dolphins organization and our fans around the world, I want to congratulate Zach on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was a joy to watch him play the game. Zach's accomplishments on the field made him one of the greatest players in NFL history. His development from a fifth-round draft choice to a perennial Pro Bowl selection to receiving the most prestigious honor this game has to offer is a testament to his ability as both a player and a student of the game. As great as he was on the field, he is even better as a family man and a role model. We look forward to celebrating with him in Canton."
VICE CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO TOM GARFINKEL
"Zach is now where he belongs – enshrined with the greatest to ever play the game of football in the Hall of Fame. Zach played with an incomparable intensity and passion; and as impressive is the way Zach lives his life with humility, kindness and a love for his family, teammates and community. We are so proud that Zach was and will forever be a Miami Dolphin and a Pro Football Hall of Famer."
GENERAL MANAGER CHRIS GRIER
"Congratulations to Zach Thomas on being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is an honor that is truly deserved. Zach was the consummate professional, on and off the field. His passion and work ethic were second to none. He was an unheralded fifth-round draft pick who made an instant impact for the Dolphins. His leadership, football intelligence and drive to be great were evident immediately to teammates and coaches. He gave everything he had to the Miami Dolphins for 12 great seasons. I, like Dolphins fans all over the world, are thankful to have been able to watch Zach play football. He defined what it meant to be a Miami Dolphin. The Miami Dolphins organization is proud to celebrate Zach Thomas the person and NFL Hall of Famer."
HEAD COACH JIMMY JOHNSON (1996-99)*
"Zach Thomas ranks as one of my favorite players of all time. Having coached 10 Hall of Fame players in my career, I believe Zach deserves to be in that group. Zach was a coach's dream as a leader and a player. I never had any player that prepared himself as well as Zach. He belongs in the Hall."
HEAD COACH DAVE WANNSTEDT (1999-2004)
"Of all the players I coached in 40 years of coaching, I never had a player who was a coach on the field as much as Zach. In the end, that is what made him so special. Having a player with his ability to play at a high level every play was rare. He was as valuable on third down when our opponents were throwing the ball as much as he was on first down when they were running it. To have a player like Zach who understood the game and then was able to carry it to the field for 60 minutes is very, very unique and Zach is one of the few who falls into that category. That's why he is deserving as any player I have been around to make the Hall of Fame."
SPECIAL TEAMS COACH MIKE WESTHOFF (1996-2000)
"I'm so happy for Zach. I was the only NFL coach who scouted him at Texas Tech and that was to play special teams for us. After we drafted him in the fifth round, it didn't take long for everyone with the Dolphins to realize that this kid could play in the league. I'll never forget the day Jimmy Johnson said in a meeting that he was releasing Jack Del Rio and moving Zach up from the fourth team to be our starting middle linebacker. There was no one who studied or worked harder than Zach. Even when he was a starter, he still wanted to play special teams. He was the definition of a football player. He's earned everything he's gotten and I couldn't be happier for him."
DE TRACE ARMSTRONG (1996-2000)
"Zach brought it every day. He brought it in practice. He brought it in the meeting rooms. I think one of the things that is really under-appreciated about Zach was that he wasn't a 'stats' guy. He made plays when they mattered. Sometimes you just make plays and other times you will yourself into making plays. That was Zach. He willed himself into being a Hall of Fame player. When you look at all of them, I think he was one of the most complete inside linebackers to ever play the game."
DT TIM BOWENS (1996-2004)
"The first time I noticed Zach was when we were in two-a-day practices in 1996 with Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy brought in Jack Del Rio as the middle linebacker, but he retired and Zach started on a Hall of Fame career. He was the first guy in the building and the last to leave. Zach was a great teammate and this honor is well deserved."
RB RONNIE BROWN (2005-07)
"I've never seen a more dedicated person to his or her craft to get every ounce of potential out of their gifts than Zach Thomas. He was a tireless worker and a leader in the locker room and on the field. He was one of those guys who brought it every practice and made you better. Everything he has earned is well deserved."
DT LARRY CHESTER (2002-04)
"Playing with Zach was like taking your defensive coordinator on the field with you. He could make checks just from seeing personnel come off the sideline. As good as he was on the field, outside of the game he was a damn great family."
LB LARRY IZZO (1996-2000)
"Zach had a Hall of Fame career. He was a ferocious tackling machine. Every offense he faced, their first order of business was, 'How do we block 54?' Because if you didn't get that done, you were going to have a hard time moving the football. Zach was tough, nasty and relentless, and he just had a knack for getting off blocks and getting to the football. He has great instincts and great study habits that allowed him to play fast. This made Zach impactful in every game he played in. Sideline-to-sideline stops, tackles for loss, he covered running backs, he covered tight ends, he covered wide receivers. You name it, Zach did it. He was a three-down linebacker who never left the field. He just made plays. Zach was a guy who always played with a huge chip on his shoulder and that drove him to greatness. His play inspired his teammates and Zach set the tone every time he stepped on the field."
CB SAM MADISON (1997-2005)
"Looking at the things that Zach has done and at the other guys who've gone in before him, he should have been in a long time ago. But everybody has their time. Zach is a humble guy. He doesn't really go out on a limb and jump off the dock or anything, but he really deserves it. The way that he just worked his tail off after being a fifth-round pick, I'm really happy for him. I'll be there, just like I was there for Jason Taylor, because that's one of the guys that I really looked up to coming in – just his work ethic. We just made a pact. We never really wanted to miss practice, we never really wanted to miss games and we wanted to go out there and have fun when we were on the football field. Those are the type of leaders that you want to play with."
QB DAN MARINO (1996-99)*
"Everything about Zach said Hall of Fame. His statistics, how he played, the winning defenses he led, the Pro Bowls and his knowledge of the game all jump out at you. He was not only certain to be in the right spot and get to the ball, but he would get everyone else lined up before the snap. He was the quarterback of that defense and he made his teammates better. Even though I was a veteran when Zach arrived in 1996, I started looking at how he worked every day and how he prepared and it made you want to improve. You looked at his example and said, 'l want to work like that guy.' And then I saw him play and develop and he got better over 12 years and I soon recognized he was one of the greats of his time."
DE/LB JASON TAYLOR (1997-2007)*
"Zach was hands down one of the best teammates I've ever had. He was the captain of our defense and made every one of us better on every play. Nobody worked harder; nobody prepared more, and if you didn't see that first-hand on a daily basis, you certainly saw the results on Sundays. Zach is absolutely deserving of a gold jacket and his place in history."
S SHAWN WOODEN (1996-99, 2001-03)
"Zach was an amazing teammate and better friend. We were drafted in the same class in 1996 and from day one I knew he was a special person. He overcame a lot of stereotypes when he was first drafted and stunned everyone but his teammates from his first game until his last. He was the heart and soul of our defense. Zach never tip-toed or took it easy on the field, whether it was in a game, practice, walk-through or the film room. He was a true professional and he treated the game of football with respect."
T RICHMOND WEBB (1996-2000)
"Congratulations, Zach. You're definitely deserving of this honor. You are truly an example for anyone who wants to be successful not just in sports, but in life."
COACH BILL BELICHICK
"Zach was one of those pure football guys that I really admire. There aren't very many players who were as tough, productive and consistent."
QB DREW BREES
"Zach Thomas was like a rolling ball of butcher knives. Here he is, this undersized middle linebacker, and yet he would make every tackle. And when he'd hit you, he hit you so damn hard."
C DERMOTTI DAWSON*
"Zach Thomas was a student of the game and his play showed it on the field. He had great instincts and could anticipate where the ball was going to be ran. I knew when we played the Dolphins, I had to make sure he was accounted for each play. Zach had a stellar career and his stats speak for themselves. He was a HELL of a player and a better person!"
LB RAY LEWIS*
"I first met Zach as a friend. Then I met the warrior. Year after year, Zach showed to the world how to play the middle linebacker position. He wasn't the biggest or fastest, but his instincts, passion and knowledge of the game always impressed me. Sideline to sideline, there are not many linebackers that I have ever seen better than Zach."
QB PEYTON MANNING*
"The most unnerving thing about playing Miami was Zach Thomas calling out all of your plays. He caused the most problems for me of any player I ever faced."
RB CURTIS MARTIN*
"Zach wasn't the biggest, strongest, or fastest; but he was the smartest and most instinctive. No matter where I went, there he was."
C KEVIN MAWAE*
"Zach Thomas was my nemesis. My first year with the Jets before the first game we played each other, Bill Parcells told me in front of my entire team, 'If you don't block Thomas, we won't win the game.' And for the next 16 matchups, I never forgot that. Zach was one of – if not the smartest – players I ever faced. He loved the game, had fun when he played and brought the best out in me. When people ask me, 'Who is not in the Hall of Fame that I think should be?' — it's easy for me, number 54 from the Miami Dolphins."
*denotes Pro Football Hall of Famer