I remember after he broke his shoulder blade the first time ~ The the next year he broke the other one ~ A lot of fan were behind him with the first injury ~ Then after the second injury a lot of Viking fans starting jumping of the band wagon ~ He never played the same after his second injury ~ But for his first two years he was one of the best FS in the NFL ~ It's a shame they couldn't do anything to help him and millions of others get better ~ I wish him well as he tries to fight threw this ~
By Mark Craig, Star Tribune
Last update: June 09, 2007 4:50 PM
Orlando Thomas never had a bad day. Oh sure, life would knock him down sometimes. But friends, former teammates and relatives say their beloved "OT" always got back up with a smile and five words that will forever define this 34-year-old former Vikings free safety:
"Every day is a holiday," said former Vikings strong safety Robert Griffith, repeating his friend's favorite mantra and chuckling at a headful of memories from playing next to Thomas from 1995 to 2001.
"He'd say it probably once a day. Sometimes three or four times. Even when he'd be hurt and standing on the sideline, you'd hear him yelling, 'C'mon, Griff. You gotta make that play. Get your name in the paper. Remember, EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY!' "
Thomas still says those five words. Only now, they're barely a whisper, mumbled by a bedridden man to his wife, Demetra, in words only a soul mate can decipher. Married Feb. 27, 1998, only two months after their first date and five months after first meeting at Cheese Car Wash in north Minneapolis, Orlando and Demetra have spent the past three years side by side coping with the fact that Orlando, a father of three young children, is dying of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
A "progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in muscle weakness and atrophy," ALS, according to the ALS Association's website (www.alsa.org), eventually destroys the motor neurons necessary for voluntary movements. Patients might become totally paralyzed and experience trouble even swallowing and breathing.
Only 30,000 Americans will have the incurable disease at one time. But that's in part because the average life expectancy following diagnosis is two to five years, according to Dr. Lucie Bruijn, science director and vice president of the ALS Association.
Thomas, whose ALS was diagnosed in September 2004, is paralyzed above the waist and has only limited movement in his legs. He can't walk or sit up on his own and is unable to chew or swallow. He's fed through a tube and needs his throat cleared regularly by suctioning. He also lost his speech recently, although Demetra said his overall physical decline has slowed the past month or so to a point where she considers him "stable."
Like most people with ALS, Thomas' mind remains as sharp as it ever was. Yet somehow, even though he understands his condition is terminal, Thomas still doesn't believe in bad days.
"I used to think that Orlando was just real carefree," Demetra said. "But I'm learning so much from him now. He can't walk into a room and bring on the excitement or bring out his favorite quote -- 'Every day is a holiday!' -- like he used to. But he's showing that, regardless of what's going on in your life, if you live from the heart and you have love, joy and peace, there's nothing greater than living from that place within."
Thomas was unable to be interviewed for this story. But, through Demetra, he was able to say, "Tell all the Vikings fans that I said 'Thank you,'" and, "Tell them Minnesota had a good draft this year ... definitely!"
Thomas still follows the Vikings closely. Still watches sports. Still wants to know how former teammates and coaches are doing.
"He's still OT," former Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "He still has his opinions on everything. Still wants to know how you're doing as opposed to how he's doing. He's an amazing man. And Demetra is an amazing woman."
'Something is wrong'
Thomas stood 6-1 and weighed 225 pounds during his playing career. A second-round draft pick out of Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) in 1995, he led the NFL in interceptions (nine) as a rookie. He started 87 of 98 games for the Vikings, intercepting 22 passes along the way, before retiring following the 2001 season.
Thomas was big and strong by NFL safety standards. He also was tough, often playing through nagging injuries. He suffered common ailments, such as cranky hamstrings, and uncommon trauma, such as breaking both shoulder blades toward the end of his career.
Puts things into perspective.
Has Culpepper been cut from Miami yet?
"Culpepper never needed Moss. The guy needed a brain. - Wembley Awesome"