- Mitch Sherman, College Football
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MESQUITE, Texas -- On Friday nights in the fall, you won't find Terry Orr, the former Texas standout and eight-year NFL tight end, anywhere near field level at DeSoto (Texas) High School games.
Two of his four sons have graduated from DeSoto -- Terrance Orr to play special teams as a walk-on defensive back at Texas State, and Zachery Orr to North Texas, where he led the Mean Green defense with 74 tackles as a sophomore last season.
The younger Orrs attend DeSoto. Nick, as a rising junior safety, has already started two seasons and looks like a top 2014 prospect , and sophomore Chris Orr plans to make his varsity debut as a linebacker next fall.
So much football in this family. And so much love for the game.
"My brothers and my dad told me that hard work pays off," Nick Orr said. "They told me to play with my eyes and remember that 90 percent of the game is mental. Only 10 percent is athleticism."
So just where is Terry Orr when his boys take the field?
Using his eyes, of course, from a vantage point as high as the bleachers stretch. His wife, Rita, stays below. Terry wants to be alone with his thoughts.
"I tell them, 'Y'all are watching the ball,'" he said. "'I'm watching the game.'"
Terry coaches Nick and his DeSoto teammates in 7-on-7 football in the offseason. The elder Orr's passion is evident as he stalks the sideline and barks instructions to his players.
He never pushed the game on his sons, but he passed along that football savvy. Football intelligence ranks as their most valuable gift, according to DeSoto coach Claude Mathis, who has coached the three youngest Orrs.
Terrance, 22, helped assist the secondary at DeSoto this spring under Mathis and plans to coach defensive backs at Copperas Cove (Texas) High School next season.
"I know my brothers all looked up to me," Terrance said. "It's hard to see that when you're young sometimes, but it's a big responsibility."
Zachery, a bit undersized at 6-foot and 230 pounds, made a name for himself at North Texas in his second season. His tackle total placed him seventh in the Sun Belt Conference. Against Alabama last year in a 41-0 loss, Orr had a sack and eight tackles.
He said he and his brothers learned much about the game at home.
"We weren't really normal," Zachery said. "We didn't sit around and watch cartoons. We wanted to watch old football films. We'd study tape without knowing we were studying tape."
More slight than his brothers at 5-10 and 165 pounds, Nick possesses the skills to go further in football than any Orr since Terry. Terry played fullback -- a little tailback, too -- at Texas from 1981 to 1984 before moving to tight end with the Washington Redskins in 1986. He caught 10 touchdowns before his career ended in 1993.
Last summer as DeSoto prepared for the 7-on-7 state tournament in College Station, Texas, Rita's mother died. The funeral conflicted with the tournament. Terry and Nick traveled with the team.
"My mom was a big football fan," Rita said.
She would have wanted them to go.
DeSoto won the title.
"That told me something about them," Mathis said, "about their family. I'll never forget that. That's a great family."
Nick's dedication to the game and his intelligence allowed him to start as a freshman in 5A, Texas' largest classification.
Recruiting has just started for Nick, who attended a Texas camp on Sunday in Austin. Mathis said he expects Nick to exceed the accomplishments of Zachery, an all-state player at DeSoto.
Zachery expects it, too.
"At this age," Zachery said, "he's a way better football player than I was. If he stays focused, the sky's the limit for Nick."
Then there's Chris, the baby of the family. He played safety on the freshmen team at DeSoto last season. A move to linebacker pre-empted his expected promotion to the varsity squad this fall. Terrance, the oldest brother, said Chris owns the best work ethic of all the Orrs.
Perhaps it explains his attitude toward upholding the family tradition.
"I feel like it's a lot of pressure," Chris said, "but I've dealt with it before. I'll deal with it as long as I play football. I like the pressure."
Former Texas and NFL star Terry Orr passes on the love of game to his sons and teaches them a thing or two along the way, writes Mitch Sherman