Former Vikings star Orlando Thomas dies aged 42

Orlando Thomas during his days in Minnesota (©GettyImages)

Former Minnesota Vikings safety Orlando Thomas, who was a young star in the NFL before prematurely retiring aged 29, has passed away aged just 42.

Thomas, who played his college ball at Southwestern Louisiana - now known as University of Louisiana at Lafayette - had been suffering from A.L.S (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease) in Crowley, Louisiana for the past few years.

Thomas' agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed the terrible news on Monday morning.

"Nobody's ever fought a battle like Orlando fought, with so much dignity -- I never saw anything like it," Bartelstein said earlier today.

"It's just incredible. He never had a sense of self pity, never felt sorry for himself, he was always worried about everyone else.

"He was just the most incredible person I've ever been around." 

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Rookie Star

Thomas was a second-round draft pick out of Southwestern Louisiana in 1995, taken ahead of future five-time Pro Bowler Curtis Martin. Thomas was a breakout star in his rookie year, having nine interceptions and being named an All-Pro for the only time in his career in his first year as a pro.

Thomas ended up starting 87 of 98 games for the Vikings, intercepting 22 passes, including 9 during his rookie season, before retiring following the 2001 season. He played his whole career in Minnesota.


Thomas was diagnosed with ALS in 2004 after noticing something was amiss while on a coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals, and announced it to the public three years later.

The awful disease came to prominence over the summer thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, which so far has raised an incredible $115million dollars for The ALS Association.

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