Wisconsin LB Chris Orr comes from a large football family, but don't let that distract from his superb karaoke skills.
"I think I own that title." That's the first thing Chris Orr said when I mentioned I'd heard he had loads of personality. As you read our conversation below, you'll see that's true. Orr, the sophomore linebacker for the Wisconsin Badgers, has quite the football pedigree. Each of his older brothers played collegiately, and his dad, Terry, spent eight seasons in the NFL. As a true freshman in 2015, Orr finished with 46 tackles, sixth-most on the team. This season he'll be expected to play an even bigger role. That starts Saturday, when Wisconsin meets No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Lindsay Schnell: So you're going to be part of what's being billed as the biggest opening weekend EVER in college football. What's it like to be part of history?
CO: It's great. We're really prepared for this opportunity, and we're excited to have this game as a team and as a program.
LS: Dave Aranda was your position coach before he left for LSU—so do you have extra insight on what your offense should expect Saturday? Have you been giving them tips?
CO: Oh, they know what to expect. Coach Aranda was here for three years and we ran just about his entire playbook. I don't think too much will shake them or confuse them, because they saw it in practice for three years straight.
LS: What will it be like to see him again? Were you mad when he left?
CO: I wasn't mad. Football is a big business, at the end of the day. He still has a family to feed. Of course I was attached to him; he was a good friend, good coach, somebody you can talk to with ease. He doesn't usually come out pregame, so I doubt I'll see him then. But afterwards I'll make sure I find him, give him a handshake, say what's up, rub on his bald head.
LS: You're from a football family. Your oldest brother, Zachary, is a linebacker for the Ravens, and your other older brother, Nick is a safety at TCU. And your dad played at Texas, then in the NFL from 1986–93. I have two questions: Who's the best athlete in your family and did you ever think about playing something different, like lacrosse?
CO: The best athlete is my mom. She ran and played basketball in high school and she's still pretty athletic. If I had to pick the best athlete of me and my brothers, I'd have to go with Nick, my brother at TCU.
I never thought about doing anything other than football. The only other thing I thought about was powerlifting or going into Olympic lifting after football. But I haven't thought of replacing football at all.
LS: You're the youngest of four boys. How much did you get picked on as a kid, and did that play a role in you being tough enough to play Division-I football now?
CO: We all picked on each other. I think that played a role in all of us being pretty mentally tough. No one outside our immediate family can really get under our skin, because we've been doing that to each other our entire lives. No one can really say anything that rattles us. And of course, growing up with four boys, we're going to wrestle and be rough and tough with each other all the time.
I just remember when we were little, all of us playing little league football and playing or watching each other all day, and being together all day on Saturdays. That was really fun. And also, this past year, it was football all day, every day because there's me, and my brother at TCU, and the brother in the NFL and then my other brother is the offensive coordinator at (my alma mater) DeSoto High. We text each other every day in our group message, checking in to see who won and how everyone did, and that keeps me happy.
LS: That's awesome that you're so close. What advice did Zachary and Nick give you before you started playing college football?
CO: Just that "football is still football, and you've been doing this your entire life, like everyone else has. You're a Division I football player, like everyone else." I think that helped me a lot. And of course they told me to keep working hard, stay humble and keep being me, and I'll go far. I still take that to heart.
LS: You're involved in a lot of off-the-field charity work, and this summer were a big part of hanging out with the Upside Down Foundation, when you guys hosted a bunch of kids and got to let them experience a day in the life of a Wisconsin Badger. How do events like that help you gain perspective?
CO: I think they help us gain a lot of perspective because sometimes when you're playing college football, you get wrapped up in it 24/7. You don't really think about how fortunate you are, or what it would be like to live a normal life or to even just go to college period instead of having football. I look at those kids, and they'll never be able to be in the position I'm in today. So I want to give them as close to a real football experience as I could and make sure I keep them smiling. Those kids are like a bundle of joy. They have every reason to be sad or mad, but they're not. I think that's what keeps me smiling.
LS: You also did a lot with the Wisconsin women's clinic and you said in the video that you got a lot of "Mom questions" and so I wondered, what is a "Mom question"?
CO: (Laughs) Just stuff like how often do you talk to your mom, do you miss your family, do you talk to your parents before games. Just things you'd expect a mom to ask.
LS: I'm guessing you watched the Olympics … What Olympic sport was your favorite, and which Olympic athlete do you most want to meet?
CO: Oooh, that's hard. OK well I loved the all the swimming, and then of course the 4x100 and 4x400 track relays. And I'd like to meet Usain Bolt, just so I can race him in maybe a 2-yard dash. Then I could tell everybody I beat Usain Bolt in a race.
LS: What Olympic sport do you think you could excel at?
CO: Probably weightlifting. I'm not sure I'd be an Olympian but I'd like to get involved in that. Ooooh and rugby, I need to study up on that. What else do we have? Swimming! I wanted to swim but man, they swim for a long time and I'm not in that good of shape.
LS: I've heard that you and your teammate, Arrington Farrar, are basically a comedy duo, and that you like to perform duets together. What's your go-to karaoke song?
CO: We have a few. "Same Girl" by R. Kelly and Usher, I'm R. Kelly and he's Usher. And then there are some a capella moments, and we'll do some Bell Biv DeVoe. It's a little bit of everything.
LS: If your head coach Paul Chryst had to do karaoke, what do you think his go-to song would be?
CO: (Laughs) Oh man, I don't know but now we've gotta get him to do that.
LS: If an alien came to earth from outer space and asked you to explain Wisconsin's "Jump Around" tradition, what would you say?
CO: I'd say it's the best thing that you will ever experience. It's like an earthquake. People are going crazy, having a fun time. And of course, because it's at a Badger football game, at historic Camp Randall, it's even better. It's shaking, everybody's screaming, everybody's chanting and then you get more than a second wind. Even if you're hurting or sore or tired, you get a second energy boost to start the fourth quarter.