While at North Carolina State University Thacker won the NCAA heavyweight wrestling championship in 1984, collecting 4 Atlantic Coast Conference titles along with the Wolfpack. He finished his college career 92-11-1, ranking second in N.C. State history with an .889 winning percentage and 54 pins.
He began his film career after Clint Eastwood noticed him in Time magazine and noted the 6-foot-4 and 450-pound (1.93 m, 204 kg) Thacker's size. He went on to appear in several films including City Heat, Wildcats, two of the Police Academy films, and Identity Crisis.
After leaving Hollywood, Thacker returned to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he opened a remodeling business and operated several nightclubs. He later became a bail bondsman.
Thacker had majored in criminal justice at NC State.
A North Carolina native, Thacker died in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 28, 2007 at the age of 45 after years of failing health. Some years before his death, he developed diabetes and had a foot amputated; shortly before his death, he lost his legs too. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and six children.
He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.