Orlando Thomas has been such an inspiration since his diagnosis. In 2004, Thomas learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a fatal, progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Thomas revealed his diagnosis in June 2007.
A second-round draft pick from Southwestern Louisiana, Thomas, a defensive back, started 87 of the 98 games he played for the Vikings from 1995 to 2001. He retired at age 29.
Having been bedridden and hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube, he only weighed 70 pounds, which is less than a third of his 225-pound weight at the height of his career. The average life expectancy of an ALS patient is two to five years, and only 5 percent survive for 20.
The Minnesota Vikings published the photo below and issued the following statement:
Eden Prairie, MN (November 10, 2014) – The Vikings are deeply saddened by the loss of Orlando Thomas. 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.
Since 2007, Orlando fought this disease with tenacity and optimism. Throughout his difficult battle, he refused to allow ALS to define him, instead putting others’ needs in front of his and focusing on making those around him smile.
Orlando will always remain a member of the Minnesota Vikings family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Demetra and their family.