Former Minnesota Vikings player Orlando Thomas dies at age 42
Former Minnesota Vikings safety Orlando Thomas died Monday after a decade-long battle with ALS.
Thomas, 42, was living in his native Crowley, La., just a half hour west of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette campus where he starred for four seasons before being selected by the Vikings in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft.
Thomas, who spent all seven of his NFL seasons with the Vikings before retiring after the 2001 campaign at age 29, was a key starter on the Minnesota teams of the late 1990s, including the 1998 group that went 15-1 in the regular season before losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.
He led the league with nine interceptions as a rookie.
“The Vikings are deeply saddened by the loss of Orlando Thomas,” the team said in a statement Monday. “Orlando was an outstanding player for the Vikings for seven years, but more importantly, he represented the franchise and the state of Minnesota with the utmost dignity and class. While his outgoing personality made him a favorite among his teammates, Orlando’s involvement in the community made him a favorite outside of Winter Park.”
According to agent Mark Bartelstein, who represented Thomas throughout his career, the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis never clouded Thomas’ positive outlook.
“I wish everybody could really understand the fight that this guy put up in this horrific, horrific disease,” Bartelstein told USA TODAY Sports. “A lot of times when things happen they get overexaggerated or overdramatized. In this case, there’s no way to do justice to just the class and dignity and character that he fought this disease with.
“He never ever had an ounce of self pity. He never asked for anything. He was always concerned with how you were doing or how was your family doing. Just so concerned about other people. He never wanted the attention to be on his plight. The courage and class and how much he cares about other people, it was mindboggling to me to watch how he handled everything.”
A number of Thomas’s former teammates offered remembrances on Twitter Monday morning.
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