Falcons assistant coach chosen for Hall of Fame

PHOENIX - Emmitt Thomas will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his work with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Atlanta Falcons were eager to congratulate him as well.

Thomas, who was interim coach of the Falcons for the final three games this season and will remain on the staff of new coach Mike Smith, was voted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, three decades after his playing career ended.

'I'm just happy to be alive when it happened,' the 64-year-old Thomas told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 'It's just like it happened on the first ballot. I'm so excited.'

Thomas was a superb bump-and-run and coverage cornerback for the Chiefs from 1966-78. He was the only nominee of the senior committee to get in.

Also voted into the Hall were former Washington Redskins teammates Darrell Green and Art Monk, New England linebacker Andre Tippett, San Diego/San Francisco defensive end Fred Dean, and Minnesota/

Denver offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman.

For the second straight year, former commissioner Paul Tagliabue failed to elected.

Thomas, who coached in Washington for years, was thrilled with the company he is keeping, most specifically Green and Monk.

'Those guys have high character,' Thomas said. 'I'm proud to go in with them.'

Falcons owner Arthur Blank called Thomas with the good news. He's going into his seventh season with the team and was promoted to assistant head coach by Smith, in addition to continuing his work with the secondary.

'Emmitt Thomas' selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame tops off what has been a spectacular career in the National Football League,' Blank said. 'Emmitt epitomizes professionalism and he had a spectacular 13-year playing career.'