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Is Zach Thomas the Hall of Fame's Biggest Snub?

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas got closer than ever to the Hall of Fame this year, but there's a lot of sentiment that his bust should be in Canton already

Zach Thomas became a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time this year, but he did not end up being among the five modern-era players selected.

Thomas certainly has a strong case to be in the Hall of Fame, though it's flat-out not his style to ever campaign for himself.

But others will do it, including NFL historian Russell Baxter, who ranked Thomas as his second-biggest Hall of Fame snub behind only longtime Oakland Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch.

"In 1996, head coach Jimmy Johnson’s first season in charge of the Miami Dolphins, the man with an eye for talent and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 used a fifth-round draft choice on Texas Tech linebacker Zach Thomas," Baxter wrote. "And it wound up being one of his greatest decisions during his somewhat-brief tenure in the National Football League.

"Thomas wound up being a highly productive player during his 12 seasons in South Florida. He finished with 125-plus tackles an imposing 10 times over that span and in 2000, he wound up with 99 total stops in just 11 contests. During his days with the ‘Fins, he picked off 17 passes and returned four of those thefts for scores. He also finished with seven fumble recoveries. The 5’11”, 228-pound defender earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl and was accorded All-Pro honors an impressive five times.

"His final season in Miami saw him limited to only five games. But he still finished with 52 tackles and one sack. Thomas’ concluded his career in Dallas in 2008. He certainly made his mark with a Dolphins franchise that made five consecutive playoff appearances from 1997-2001, albeit without much success."

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Baxter certainly isn't alone in his opinion.

Longtime Jets center Kevin Mawae also made a pitch for Thomas during his own Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“Zach Thomas was my nemesis,” Mawae said about three-quarters into his 27-minute Hall of Fame speech. “My first year with the Jets before my first game we played against each other, (Coach) 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 player I ever faced. He loved the game, had fun when he played and brought the best out of me. When people ask me who’s not in the Hall of Fame and that I think should be here, it’s an easy one for me: number 54 from the Miami Dolphins.”

The five modern-era finalists who were elected to the Class of 2020 are running back Edgerrin James, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, safety Troy Polamalu, safety Steve Atwater and guard Steve Hutchinson.

Thomas' career officially ended May 20, 2010 when he signed a one-day contract with the Dolphins so he could retire as a member of the organization.

The other members of Baxter's top 10 Hall of Fame snubs were longtime Redskins offensive lineman Joe Jacoby, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, Bengals cornerback Ken Riley, Falcons linebacker Tommy Nobis, Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko, Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson and Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood.