It takes a special kind of person to be able to manage the schedule of a successful scholar athlete. Hours must be spent in preparation, both on classwork and on the practice field. It is a rare breed that can not only be successful, but also thrive. Princeton University freshman linebacker John Orr is one of those rare ones.
A three-year letterman at both linebacker and tight end for Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Orr helped guide his team to three state finals, including capturing the state championship during his junior season. While starring for the Lions, Orr was a three-time all-district selection and led the team in tackles with 118 his senior year. Because of these accomplishments Orr is one of five 2016 National Football Foundation National High School Scholar-Athlete Honorees. Orr was nominated by the Middle Tennessee Chapter in the South Region.
He was not only captain of the football team, but also the baseball team, class president, a member of the National Honor Society, and graduated with a stellar 4.32 GPA. His success to this point has been undeniable and he has been able to, at least in part, credit his strong work ethic to the lessons that he garnered from football.
“I love the competition that you can really only experience by playing football,” he said. “I also love being part of the team. That’s what I loved about it when I first started playing and it is what I love about it now. Football helps you compete against other people, which is great, but you also are competing against yourself trying to get better. You learn to work hard and that helps you on the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, and really in life in general.”
In life and on the football field, Orr has all the instincts of the prototypical linebacker. He is cerebral and always cognizant of what is transpiring around him. Being able to function in the controlled chaos of a defensive front seven has always been something he has thrived at and truly enjoyed. If anyone was born to be a linebacker, it is Orr.
“While I did play tight end in high school, I think I always enjoyed defense better,” he said. “I think you can play with more attitude on defense and I always loved that aspect of it. Also, and this is true here at Princeton, on defense we all move around depending on where the coaches tell us we are the best fit and can help the team best in our different schemes. Everyone still has to do their job in order for the team to be successful. No one in football is ever more important than anyone else.”
While carrying on the workload of an Ivy League student and trying to find balance as a scholarship athlete, Orr has found success so far in his young career. He credits the time management skills he learned in high school as well as an important lesson his coaches at Christ Presbyterian taught him.
“My coaches there taught us so much more there than football,” Orr explained. “They were constantly teaching us how important it is to be a man of character and how to develop as men. So many of my coaches were my mentors all throughout school.”
The lessons he learned in high school were many. Perhaps chief among them though was the need to stay grounded, stay humble, and stay focused. Lessons that mattered in football and in life.
“You know my coaches truly devoted lots of time on our game plans each week, but at the end of the day, their goals were for us to mature as men of character and as spiritual men,” he said. “They did a great job of using football as a technique for that.”
In his limited off time, Orr has enjoyed fishing and golfing with his friends and family. The downtime is few and far between these days, but Orr does not mind. He knows that putting in the work and finding the balance is what will make him a true success at the end of the day.
“I think the main lesson that I learned from my coaches was that football is ultimately not what defines me,” he said. “Even after we won state our junior year and as good as we did our senior year, they wanted us to know to stay focused. The competition, the hard work, the camaraderie, all those things are great that football gives you. At the end of the day though, football is just a part of life, it isn’t all of life.”