Thurman Thomas

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Buffalo Bills Running Back

The Buffalo Bills fast-paced, no-huddle attack of the Super Bowl years is perhaps best remembered for the aerial assault led by Jim Kelly, Andre Reed, James Lofton and Don Beebe. The true engine of that machine, however, was versatile running back Thurman Thomas, whose running skills kept opposing defenses honest and more susceptible to Kelly’s passing. In fact, Thomas proved to be the ultimate weapon, as he possessed receiving skills rare among running backs that enabled him to excel in any situation and in all phases of the no-huddle offense.

A second-round pick from Oklahoma State, Thomas hit the ground running with the Bills in 1988, with a touchdown in his NFL debut against the Vikings. The Bills won the AFC East that year, and rode Thomas and Kelly to the AFC title game. Primarily a rushing threat his rookie year, Thurman blossomed into an all-around threat his second year (1989), with sixty receptions complementing his 1,244 rushing yards. Thomas’ signature game occurred that season; a record-tying 13-catch performance in a heartbreaking playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns. That game gave birth to the no-huddle which terrorized NFL defenses for four years and helped produce four straight AFC Championships. Thomas scored a career-high 13 touchdowns in the 1990 season, the Bills’ maiden voyage to the Super Bowl, and his late touchdown and overall play in that game would have unquestionably landed him MVP honors had Scott Norwood’s kick been true.

Thurman is the Bills career leader in rushng yardage (12,074 and ninth in the NFL history) and NFL leader in post-season touchdowns (21). Thomas also ranks sixth all-time in yards from scrimmage (16,532). He represented the Bills five times in the Pro Bowl, and was selected the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1991 after 1,407 yards rushing and a career-best 62 receptions. That 1991 season was one of four consecutive seasons he led the league in yards gained from scrimmage, an NFL record.

A notorious Dolphin-killer, Thomas was always at his best in the big games. Bills fans recall the image of Thurman carrying a much larger linebacker on his back for three yards and the first down which sealed Buffalo’s divison-title clinching win over Miami in 1995, and his dominating rushing performance against the Kansas City Chiefs which landed the Bills in their last Super Bowl. Dependable in the clutch, and spectacular game-in and game-out, Thurman Thomas has earned a secure place in Buffalo Bills history, and in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.