Former Vikings defensive back Orlando Thomas dies of ALS at 42

A former Minnesota Vikings star player has died from ALS at the age of 42.

Orlando Thomas, who was a defensive back for the team in the late 1990s, died on Sunday in his home town of Crowley, Louisiana.

Mr Thomas played for the Vikings for seven seasons and retired from the league in 2001 when he was 29 years old.

The former player weighed just 70lb when he died after battling the disease for seven years – less than a third of his 225lb weight at the height of his career.

In a statement, his agent Mark Bertelstein told ESPN: ‘This was a devastating way for it to happen. But it was inevitable.

‘To watch what he went through since he came down with this disease never showing an ounce of self-pity. He never wanted to talk about his plight.’

Thomas revealed in June 2007 that he was suffering from the neurodegenerative disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The player came to rely on his wife Demetra and two children, after losing his ability to speak, blinked letters to communicate.

Thomas was drafted into the NFL from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1995.

The funeral is yet to be arranged.

In a statement today, the Minnesota Vikings said: ‘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.’

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