Former NFL safety Orlando Thomas died Sunday night, losing his battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease), his agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed with ESPN on Monday. Thomas was 42.
"Nobody's ever fought a battle like Orlando fought, with so much dignity — I never saw anything like it," Bartelstein said. "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."
After being tabbed by the Minnesota Vikings with the 42nd pick of the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft, Thomas led the league in interceptions that season with nine and was selected to the Pro Bowl. He then went on to play for the Vikings from 1995-2001, before retiring. He announced his battle with ALS back in 2007, fighting the disease for the next seven years, before succumbing to it Sunday night.
Bartelstein mentioned that Thomas had lost 70 pounds during his battle with the crippling disease. This past August, former NFL linebacker and special teams player Tim Shaw made his ALS diagnosis public. During that time, Forbes reported that football players could be four times more likely to be stricken with the incurable ALS than the general male population. The disease allows the brain to continue functioning properly, but the body's normal functions shut down.
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(Photo: Scott Halleran /Allsport)