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Former Football: Former Ragin’ Cajuns Great Orlando Thomas Passes Away At 42

Two-time Big West Defensive Player of the Year played seven years in the NFL

Orlando Thomas

LAFAYETTE – Former Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns All-American and NFL star Orlando Thomas passed away on Sunday after a 10-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 42.
Thomas, who played for the Ragin’ Cajuns from 1991-94, was a second-team UPI All-American and third-team AP All-American in 1993 after leading the nation with a school-record tying nine interceptions. Thomas was a two-time Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year (1993-94), helping the Ragin’ Cajuns pace the league in nearly every defensive category and ranking second nationally as a team with 22 interceptions in 1993.
A native of Crowley, Thomas appeared in 44 games for the Ragin’ Cajuns and recorded 347 tackles – the most by a defensive back and the second-best total in school history. Thomas’ 18 career interceptions ranks third in school history behind Mike McDonald (21, 1968-71) and Ron Irving (19, 1976-78) and his 347 interception return yards are third behind Irving (384) and McDonald (380).
After completing his career with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Thomas was selected in the second round (the No. 42 pick overall) by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1995 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, Thomas led the NFL with nine interceptions and was named to the All-Rookie Team.
Thomas would play seven seasons with the Vikings before retiring after the 2001 season. During his tenure in Minnesota, he was a fixture on defense, helping the 1998 squad to a 15-1 record in the regular season before falling to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.
Thomas ranks sixth in Vikings’ team history for career starts by a safety (87) and fourth in starts by a rookie safety (11).
Thomas ranks seventh in franchise history with 22 interceptions and ninth among defensive backs with 497 tackles.

Athletic Network Footnote: Please click here for the Feb., 2010 Spotlight Feature on Orlando posted by Bruce Brown.
Click here for the AN profile of Orlando Thomas.