In life, there are no guarantees. Some things can go right, others can go wrong. Today, it was the latter.
For the Baltimore Ravens, they looked at linebacker Zachary Orr to be the future of their defense. Orr, 24, had 89 tackles, 41 assists, three interceptions, and one forced fumble on the 2016 season. After his breakout season in 2016, he was set to become a free agent, but his career has been cut short due to a spine condition:
LB Zachary Orr has announced he is retiring from the NFL due to a congenital neck/spine condition. 😢
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 20, 2017
According to his doctors, Orr’s condition is only shared by one percent of the population. He played football for 15 years of football with the condition, albeit unknowingly, since he was nine years old.
Despite this negative in his life, Orr continues to stay positive.
“I’m really just blessed and thankful that we were able to find this problem,” Orr said during Friday’s press conference. “The doctors and Ravens medical staff probably ended up saving my life, and definitely allowed me to live a normal lifestyle.
He still gets to walk away with his health intact. For that, he is very grateful.
“I’m blessed and thankful that I’m able to walk away from the game in good health.”
Orr played all three of his NFL seasons for Baltimore. He was originally undrafted from North Texas in 2014 and was known as a guy who would grind for possession. His personality fit right in with the grittiness of the Ravens organization.
“I couldn’t have played for a better organization. I enjoyed every part of it in my three years here,” Orr said. After talking with my family and talking to God, everything happens for a reason. He’s done with this chapter in my life, as tough as it may seem and as shocking as it is.”
Ravens React to Orr’s Retirement
General Manager Ozzie Newsome
“When I got the news about Zach, I had to do a double take because I never expected to hear something like that. Having had the opportunity to sit with a number of players at a press conference like this that have had longer careers, I don’t think there has been any player that has been more inspirational to me over the last three years than Zach.”
“I know Zach’s father. We played the same position and he played down the road. I had the chance to visit with him when we played in Dallas and I saw how proud he was of Zach and his other kids. I can only imagine right now what is going through Terry’s [Orr] mind [about] what Zach was able to accomplish in three years. To be undrafted. To come to a team where he was fighting from the bottom. [He] makes the team, becoming one of your better special teams players in his second year, getting an opportunity to start in his third year and get some All-Pro votes. I can just, right now, look at Terry and say, ‘You have to be really, really proud of Zach.’ And so am I.”
Head Coach John Harbaugh
“The first thing that comes to my mind is you often hear that football builds character, and that’s definitely true. It’s a hard sport and all these three guys here can attest to it. But also it shines a light on character. It shows people who they are. To me, a shining example of that is Zach Orr.”
“How he conducts himself every single day, how hard he works. He’s highly intelligent and as hard a worker as you’re ever going to see. Never, ever has a negative or disparaging word for anything or anybody. All he does is just come in and just work as hard as he can to be his best, and to take care of his teammates, and do everything he can to help the team. To see that rewarded with the kind of success that he has had, I think is something for young people to take a look at.”
“It’s very fitting that his foundation is going to be for young people, because really, he’s an example. He comes from a phenomenal family. Has a big brother and just has a family that has raised him, obviously, the right way. I’m just very proud that he’s been a Raven, very proud to call him a friend, and I can’t wait to see what the next door holds for Zach Orr.”
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
“This guy had an incredible year. [Linebackers Coach Don ‘Wink’ Martindale] can attest to this. In the last two days – we start doing our cut ups at the end of the year and we go back and we examine every play. The last two days we’ve done third down. We finished the league, I think, second in the league or something like that on third down this year. This guy right here … what we do is we write down every player’s name when there’s something good and when there’s something bad, because we want to see the column. You have to see the column on this guy. This morning was phenomenal. Every other down we’re saying, ‘54 … 54 … What a great play … Hell of a play.’ Some unbelievable stops.”
“This guy is a football player and he proved he’s a football player. He’s a great complement, also, to C.J., who is one of the greatest football players in this league, and to Albert. They all complement each other thanks to ‘Wink’ and that room.”
“This guy is one of the smartest football players I’ve ever been around. It makes the job easy for coaches, for position coaches and for coordinators, when you have guys like this that you can do so many things with. You can tell him on the sideline to make a little adjustment and this guy can go right out there and get it done. That’s what makes the difference between great football players and football players. This guy right here is a great football player, and I can’t tell you how much we’re going to miss him.”
Linebackers Coach Don Martindale
“It’s sad that it happened to us, our family. We’re upset that it happened to us, but we’re happy in the fact that he’s still walking, he can have kids and he can lead a normal life. That’s the bottom line. He has no regrets. He started all the way at the bottom and worked his way to be a helluva football player. That’s why I say it’s a celebration.”
“I said he would be a starter. Then, all of a sudden, you could see just how fast and how far he’s come as a linebacker. Now you’re thinking, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I told him, ‘There are two things that you missed out on: Super Bowl, which is out of your control, and Pro Bowl, which is out of your control. Everything else, you’ve hit.’ Ten or 15 years from now, he’ll be the one bragging.”
“He was an amazing individual. I’m not just talking about the player; I’m talking about the person. That’s what is going to be missed the most. Hopefully Harbs can work something out and he can be assistant linebacker coach. I know that’s what he wants to do. He wants to coach, because he loves the game. … Without a doubt [he’ll be a good coach]. I hope he’s in my room next year.”
“Selfishly, I wish I could’ve played next to him for a long time. But it’s a blessing for him to walk away healthy and he had a great year. He ended on a high note, so as a friend, I’m very proud of him and happy for him.”