(Reuters) - Former Minnesota Vikings safety Orlando Thomas, who played with the team for all seven of his NFL seasons and led the league in interceptions during his rookie season in 1995, has died at age 42, the club said on Monday.
Thomas, a defensive back, died on Sunday night of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“The Vikings are deeply saddened by the loss of Orlando Thomas,” the team said in a statement.
“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.”
Thomas, a second-round draft choice in the 1995 NFL draft, had 22 career interceptions.
“Since 2007, Orlando fought this disease with tenacity and optimism,” the Vikings said.
“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.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney