first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoFootball is a religion to some players. Not for Jonathan Orr though. He has something a little deeper.Orr’s story goes beyond his play on the football field. Not that his career thus far as a Badger is anything to simply look past. A senior wide receiver, Orr has caught 79 passes in 44 games for the Cardinal and White, including a record-setting red-shirt freshman season that saw him haul in 47 receptions for 842 yards.It’s just that Orr’s actions away from the gridiron hold a little more meaning. “He leads his life right,” tight end Joel Nellis said. “He takes care of school, he’s deep in his faith, and I commend him a lot for that. And he’s willing to make sacrifices to help the team. If I had to pick one guy out of everybody, it’d be him. He’s really the model citizen.”Orr and Nellis are currently spearheading the team’s “Yes, We Can” campaign, a food drive in partnership with area elementary schools and the Community Action Coalition of South Central Wisconsin that lasts until Oct. 15.The service project is just another way Orr has made his mark in the community. Raised in what he describes as “a church-going family,” the Detroit native has used his time in Madison to live out his Christian faith, leading a weekly Bible study Saturday nights at Union South (from 10 p.m. to midnight) and working with children at Fountain of Life Worship Center on Fish Hatchery Road. Orr also spoke to Christian students with former Badger cornerback Scott Starks at Primetime, a weekly gathering put on by the University of Wisconsin’s Student Impact group.”Any opportunity I have to spread the gospel I want to take advantage of,” Orr said.Orr says his beliefs wavered during his adolescent years, but returning to his faith after a year in Madison filled a major void in his life.”I kind of got away from it in high school,” Orr said. “And then, college, I just knew, after my freshman year, I knew I was kind of was missing something — that relationship with God. So, it kind of came from a personal yearning and a personal calling.”That re-strengthened faith has allowed Orr to balance a busy lifestyle. He says it is his beliefs that carry him through the overwhelming times — moments when the combination of playing football for a top-25 ranked team and taking care of business in the classroom at a major university becomes especially fatiguing.”The biggest challenge is staying focused, keeping everything in perspective. Knowing that although football and school is important, the most important thing is pleasing God,” Orr said. “And just keeping Him first, that’s the main thing. Without Him being first, then everything else will fall apart anyway and really won’t matter too much anyway. So just making sure that I’m doing what he wants me to do and everything else falls into place.”1 Peter 5:6 — Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due timeAt the very opposite end of the spectrum from a showboating player, Orr is, not surprisingly, the same way off the field.His faith, and willingness to share that faith, has made him a leader among his teammates. Last Sunday he traveled to the home parish of sophomore wideout Luke Swan in Fennimore, Wis., to speak to the congregation. Orr says a growing number of players are starting to share a spiritual bond to go along with one of the sport they love. But, he’s still quick to deflect any praise.”I guess I recognize that it’s really not me,” Orr said. “It’s just God working through me, so I really can’t take any credit for it.””He’s not going to go out there and tell you what he does for the community or tell you all this other stuff,” Nellis said. “He’s going to be modest about what he does and he’s going to do it to the best of his ability.”Orr gives much of the credit for the “Yes, We Can” effort to defensive backs coach Ron Lee and director of athletic communications Justin Doherty. That’s just his style.Nellis says Orr approached him this past summer wanting to make a difference in the community, recognizing the Madison native, who has participated in other UW service campaigns and projects, as a good candidate to help.”I don’t like to take a lot of the credit for the initial idea because that was Jon,” Nellis said. “Jon thought of it, was really the one that was proactive about the whole situation which is phenomenal, because coming from a guy outside of Madison that really wants to give back to this community says something about him as a person.”Hebrews 12:1 — … let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …On the field, Orr is looking to recover from the last two years, seasons that haven’t statistically lived up to his debut campaign. After setting a school record for receiving yards by a freshman (his total also ranked No. 3 in the nation among freshman), Orr totaled just 294 over the next two years.”At the beginning it really was [frustrating],” Orr said. “But, keeping everything in perspective, I knew I had to be ready when my opportunity does come around instead of complaining about it and being down on it. Because then when it does come around, you won’t be in the right frame of mind to take advantage of it.”Last week’s win over Indiana may just have been that opportunity. Orr caught four passes for 128 yards — his highest total since Aug. 31 of 2002 — and one touchdown. His combination of size (6-foot-3) and speed (believed to be one of the best on the team), leave the door to playing professionally open with a productive senior season.Regardless of his football future, Orr is ready to continue his track record of service in the professional world. And he’s confident his faith will see him through.”That is one of my goals, to play at the next level, being the NFL,” Orr said. “And there are some things I want to do in business and in my community back home in Detroit, some community development projects I want to get established. Ministry is definitely something I’ll be involved in. In what form or fashion I really don’t know, but that will be for the rest of my life.”last_img read more