home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Football: Thomas to wear retired No. 42 jersey

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, November 12, 2014


First came word earlier this week that the Ragin Cajun football team would don helmet initial stickers to honor the memory of Orlando Thomas, the former Crowley High, UL and Minnesota Vikings defensive back who died Sunday after a decade-long battle with ALS.

The stickers will be worn for the remainder of UL’s season.

Then there was more.

"We’re gonna take it a step further," coach Mark Hudspeth said after Wednesday’s practice.

"We just felt like that wasn’t enough to honor one of the greatest players here, and someone that’s … meant what he’s meant.

"So," Hudspeth added, "we are breaking out of retirement for one game No. 42."

The 6-3 Cajuns will ‘unretire’ the jersey number Thomas wore at the school from 1991-94, and allow it to be worn by senior safety Sean Thomas (no relation) when they visit in-state rival UL Monroe for a key Sun Belt Conference game Saturday night.

"So," Hudspeth said, "obviously Orlando’s spirit will be out there on the field with our team."

Longtime Cajuns equipment manager Lynn Williams hatched the plan.

"I just thought it was a phenomenal idea," Hudspeth said, "and I think it’s a very fitting way to honor someone that has battled what he’s battled and the career he’s had here."

Williams called Thomas’ widow Demetra and received permission for the number to be worn against the Warhawks.

"I think she was honored," Hudspeth said, "and I know Orlando would have wanted that."

Hudspeth made the surprise announcement in front of his entire team, presenting Sean Thomas with a jersey special-ordered from and quick-delivered by apparel-supplier Adidas.

"At first it was kind of a shock," said Sean Thomas, who usually wears No. 24.

Once the meaning of it all hit, Thomas said he hoped to simply "represent" and "just (go) out there to play for him and his family."

"It’s an honor," he said, "and I hope to wear it well."

Later this week, Cajun players will watch a video compilation of Orlando Thomas’ college and NFL career highlights.

The safety left UL having made 15 interceptions over his final two seasons as a Cajun, and he played seven seasons for the Vikings, picking off an NFL-high nine passes as a rookie in 1995.

Less than 10 years later, he started to show the first signs of Lou Gehrig’s, a debilitating disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Sean Thomas had a head start on the Orlando Thomas story thanks to his father Quintin Thomas, an outside linebacker and safety for the Cajuns from 1984-86 and a graduate assistant secondary coach at UL when the ex-Viking played there.

"He told me all these stories – that when (Orlando Thomas) played," Sean Thomas said, "either (of) two things were gonna happen – the (receiver) was gonna lay down, or (Thomas) was gonna go the other way with the ball in his hands."

Quintin Thomas seemed as shocked as his son to hear the news.

"I had an opportunity to work with (Orlando Thomas) and watch him develop," Quintin Thomas said. "I told him back then, ‘Just keep working hard; you’re gonna be somebody special playing this game, because you’ve got it in you to really be great.

"He fought a hard battle throughout the years, and I knew it was always in him to do those things.

"For Sean personally to have an opportunity to represent all the things that Orlando has done for the community, the university," he added, "I’m proud to hear the fact he’s gotten this honor."

Quintin Thomas suggested his first post-news conversation with his son was bound to include more history lessons, including discussion of "the passion and desire he (Orlando Thomas) had as a player."

The talk, he said, probably would start like this: " ‘For you to be out there wearing that number on Saturday, believe me, Orlando is gonna be with you in a special way, because he was that kind of guy.’ "

LAGNIAPPE: Hudspeth said Wednesday that special teams player Trey Granier, a transfer to UL after redshirting at LSU, is out for the season after sustaining an ACL tear during a non-contact play in last Saturday’s win at New Mexico State. Hudspeth also said special teams player Marcus Jackson (knee), also injured at NMSU, won’t Saturday at UL Monroe, but should return the following Saturday against Appalachian State. "We lost two really important guys there," Hudspeth said. … Hudspeth on Wednesday regarding running back Alonzo Harris, who was held out at NMSU because of a thigh bruise but is fully expected to play Saturday: "Alonzo has looked really good this week. He’s had two really good days of practice." … According to The Tri-Parish Times, reporting on Nicholls State’s search for a new head coach, UL secondary coach Tim Rebowe "applied (for) the Colonels’ job when (ex-Nicholls coach Charlie) Stubbs was hired in 2010," and "multiple anonymous sources close to Rebowe, a former Nicholls assistant coach, have confirmed to The Times this week that Rebowe would likely consider the Colonels’ job again this go-round but is unsure about applying, in part because of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ success in recent years and the potential that (Hudspeth) could get a higher profile job for he and his staff." Rebowe didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the report.

UL at UL Monroe

Game: 6 p.m., Saturday, JPS Field at Malone Stadium.

TV: None.

Online: ESPN3.

Radio: 107.9 FM/1420 AM.

Records: UL 6-3, 5-0; ULM 3-6, 2-3.

Series: UL leads 25-24.