Childhood & Early Life
Zachary Michael Thomas was born on September 1, 1973, in the Gray County city of Pampa in Texas, US, to Steve and Bobby Thomas. His father is the builder and owner of the second-largest cross in the Western Hemisphere that is situated in the Carson County town of Groom in Texas. Zachary has two siblings: elder brother Bart and younger sister Katina.
Till he became a sophomore, Zachary studied at the ‘White Deer Schools’ in White Deer, Texas. When he was in his junior year, he transferred to the ‘Pampa High School.’ He emerged as an outstanding high-school football player, and his name found a place in the first-team all-state selection, as a senior.
Zachary played for ‘White Deer High School’ in Texas, where his teammates included Bart. During his freshman year in 1988, the ‘White Deer’ team scored 16–0 and went on to win the ‘Class 1A’ state championship.
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During the 1996 ‘NFL Draft,’ Zachary was selected by the ‘Miami Dolphins’ in the fifth round (154th overall). He signed a 3-year, $ 577,000 contract with them at the league minimum on July 3, 1996. Zachary’s impressive performance in the training camp led head coach Jimmy Johnson to officially name him as a starting middle linebacker at the start of the regular season. He continued to retain the position all through his tenure with the ‘Dolphins.’
The 1996 season-opener of the ‘Dolphins’ against the ‘New England Patriots’ marked the professional regular season debut of Zachary. He made his first career sack in the game. His first career tackle and first career sack were made against running back Curtis Martin and quarterback Drew Bledsoe of the ‘Patriots’ in the game. He completed his rookie season with 153 combined tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions.
In 1996, he became the ‘NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month’ for October, garnered an ‘All-Rookie’ selection, and became the ‘AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.’
He suffered a fractured fibula on August 4, 1997, during the first preseason-opener of the ‘Dolphins’ and had to stay off the field for the rest of the preseason. He later returned and started all 15 games he played in the 1997 season.
He finished the 1998 season with 133 combined tackles, 3 interceptions, and 2 sacks, playing and starting in 16 games. He was the ‘AFC Defensive Player of the Month’ in September 1998. He was also the ‘NFL Alumni Association's Linebacker of the Year’ and received the ‘Dolphins' Leadership Award’ in 1998. His career first ‘First-Team All-Pro’ selection happened that year. He was also chosen for the 1998 ‘All-Madden Team.’
He signed a 5-year, $22.50 million contract, inclusive of a signing bonus of $4.50 million with the ‘Dolphins’ on February 13, 1999. The $6.5 million salary and the bonus made him the highest-paid player of the team. His career’s first ‘Pro Bowl’ selection came with the 2000 ‘Pro Bowl.’
His career-high of 18 combined tackles (9 solo) came during a 2001 season match against the ‘Oakland Raiders,’ where the ‘Dolphins’ had an 18–15 victory. He became the ‘AFC Defensive Player of the Week’ in weeks 1 and 16. He was also voted the ‘Dolphins MVP’ by South Florida media and fans. He was selected as part of the ‘All-Iron Team’ and received the ‘PFWA Dolphins Chapter "Good Guy" Award’ in 2001. He was also chosen to play in the 2002 ‘Pro Bowl.’
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He continued his impressive performance and went on to sign a 5-year, $33.75 million contract extension, inclusive of a signing bonus of $10.50 million, with the ‘Dolphins’ on March 27, 2003. He was selected for the 2004 ‘Pro Bowl’ and garnered his 5th ‘All-Pro’ selection in 6 years.
The 2005 season marked his tenth season with both the ‘NFL’ and the ‘Dolphins.’ He featured in the seventh ‘Pro Bowl’ selection of his career when he was chosen to play in the 2006 ‘Pro Bowl.’ With this, he tied in the third spot for most ‘Pro Bowl’ features in the history of the club. He also earned the feat of recording the maximum number of ‘Pro Bowl’ selections as a defensive player in the history of the franchise.
He started in all 16 games in the 2006 season and recorded a career-high 21 combined tackles on December 17, 2006, in a match against the ‘Buffalo Bills’ that ended in a 21–0 loss. He finished the season with a career-high 165 combined tackles (103 solo), apart from 1 interception and 3 sacks. He was chosen for the 2007 ‘Pro Bowl’ on December 20, 2006, as part of the ‘AFC Roster.’
During the 2007 season, Zachary was placed on the injured reserve list due to his injuries and health issues. He played and started only 5 games in the season. His contract was terminated by the ‘Dolphins,’ and he was released on February 14, 2008.
He then signed a 1-year, $3 million contract, inclusive of a signing bonus of $1 million, with the ‘Dallas Cowboys’ on February 23, 2008. He started in 14 of the 16 matches he played for the team and finished the 2008 season with 94 combined tackles (65 solo), 1 sack, and 3 pass deflections.
During the 2009 offseason, Zachary, an unrestricted free agent, signed a year’s contract worth $2 million with the ‘Kansas City Chiefs’ on April 11. However, he was released on September 5, after he suffered a concussion while in the training camp. This prompted him to file a grievance in October that year against the ‘Chiefs’ for discharging him sans any injury settlement while recovering.
He was signed to a day-long ceremonial contract, officially worth $1, by the ‘Dolphins’ on May 18, 2010 so that he could retire as a member of the club. He is the owner of the ‘Zach's Club 54’ in Lubbock and Amarillo.