Zachary Michael Thomas (born September 1, 1973) is a former American college and professional football player who was a middle linebacker in the National Football League (NFL) for 13 seasons. He played college football for Texas Tech University, and was recognized as a unanimous All-American. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft, and played for the Dolphins his first 12 seasons in the NFL, before playing his 13th and final season with the Dallas Cowboys.
A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, and seven-time first or second team All-Pro, Thomas recorded more than 1,700 combined tackles in his career, was named the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1996, a two-time NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year, and was selected to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. In 2015, Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Thomas was born in Pampa, Texas. He attended White Deer Schools in White Deer, Texas until he was a sophomore then transferred to Pampa High School in his junior year. He was a standout high school football player and was named a first-team all-state selection as a senior. Thomas and his older brother, Bart, were high school teammates at White Deer High School in White Deer, Texas; in 1988, Thomas’ freshman year, the White Deer team went 16–0 and won the Class 1A state championship.
Thomas attended Texas Tech University, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker for the Texas Tech Red Raiders football team. As a junior in 1994, he was a first-team All-American. As a senior in 1995, he was a unanimous first-team All-American, the Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and a finalist for the Butkus Award. Thomas is one of 5 Red Raiders to be named a Unanimous All-American along with Mark Bounds, Byron Hanspard, Michael Crabtree, and Jace Amaro. He recorded 390 tackles, including a career-high 131 tackles and a school-record 20 tackles against Missouri in his senior season. Thomas and his brother Bart were the only pair of brothers to be named first-team All-Southwest Conference selections in the same year.
Thomas was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
- Second-team Houston Chronicle All-SWC (1993)
- Second-team Houston Post All-SWC (1993)
- First-team UPIAll-American (1994)
- Second-team Football News All-American (1994)
- Second-team Sporting News All-American (1994)
- 2× SWC Defensive Player of the Year (1994, 1995)
- Unanimous first-team All-American (1995)
- First-team All-SWC (1995)
- College Football Hall of Fame
- Texas Tech Hall Of Fame