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Dolphins Rewind: The Day Zach Thomas Officially Retired

Former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas officially retired May 20, 2010 after signing a one-day contract with the team

Zach Thomas was synonymous with the Miami Dolphins for the last few years of the 1990s and the better part of the next decade, so it was only right that he retire as a member of the organization.

The Dolphins made it happen exactly 10 years ago today — May 20, 2010, to be precise — when they signed Thomas to a one-day contract.

What followed was a retirement press conference that was emotional and passionate as everyone knew it would be because, well, that's the way Thomas always played.

Such is the respect the Dolphins have for Thomas that they inducted him into the Dolphin Honor Roll two years after he retired and his number 54, though not retired, hasn't been worn since his last game for the team in 2007.

Thomas was inducted into the Honor Roll along with Jason Taylor, the other half of the Dolphins' dynamic defensive duo of the 2000s.

Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018 in his first year of eligibility, while Thomas was a finalist for the first time this year.

In his 168 games with the Dolphins — all of them starts — Thomas averaged a remarkable 9.7 tackles, according to pro-football-reference.com. That’s an average of 155 for every 16 games.

In all of the 10 seasons when he played at least 12 games, Thomas finished with at least 128 total tackles. He topped 150 tackles six times, leading the NFL in that category twice (in 2002 with 156 and in 2006 with 165).

But it wasn’t just the tackles.

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Thomas also made big plays for the Dolphins defense.

He ended up with 17 interceptions in his career, including three in 1996, 1998 and 2003. He forced 16 fumbles and recovered eight, and also had 20.5 sacks.

His stat sheet filled up nicely, but that doesn’t factor in the intangibles he brought to the Dolphins defense. He was the centerpiece of the Dolphins defenses Head Coach Jimmy Johnson built after arriving in 1996.

Thomas’ impact was immediate, evidenced by him earning a starting job as a rookie and leading to the release of established veteran Jack Del Rio, who would go on to become an NFL head coach.

With Thomas leading the way — with major contributions from Taylor obviously — the Dolphins defense finished in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed an impressive seven consecutive seasons (1998-2004). Five times during Thomas’ career, the Dolphins were in the top five.

Thomas’ brilliance was recognized, as he earned eight Pro Bowl invitations and was named an All-Pro five times.

Longtime Jets center Kevin Mawae went up against Thomas many times during his career, which ended with his induction into the Hall of Fame last year. And during his induction speech, while mentioning all the teammates, coaches and other influential people he encountered, to talk about Thomas.

It was one Hall of Famer saying one of his rivals belonged in the Hall of Fame with him.

“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.”