Split decision

With a brother on either team, Orr family cannot lose Saturday

Coming into Wisconsin's match-up against Michigan State on Saturday both teams look very different on paper. The Spartans are coming off back-to-back losses, have one of the lower caliber defenses in the Big Ten and are struggling to make it into a bowl game. The Badgers have a perfect record, a near perfect defense and are in contention for a BCS Bowl.

However, there is one common thread that brings UW and MSU together: the Orr family.

Big brother Jonathan has been present in the Wisconsin wide receiver rotation for the past three years and little brother Jeremy just joined the Michigan State receiving corps for his first season. Both share the same Orr family name but their father, Larry Orr, describes his sons as two very different people.

"Jon is very outgoing and somewhat of a show person" Larry said. "Jeremy, he's very reserved, sort of quiet, to himself and he's more of the studious type. Jon is a people person. You have to get to know Jeremy, he doesn't open up as much as Jon does."

The differences do not stop there, though. Jonathan, who towers at 6-foot-3, received the height gene from his father while Jeremy, who is considerably smaller at 5-6, could be considered the more athletic of the two.

"Things don't come as natural to Jon, but they eventually develop because he gives it 110 percent," Larry said regarding his sons' athletic abilities. "With Jeremy, it's more natural. To be honest I think in terms of athletes and Jon would probably admit it, Jeremy is the faster of the two."

Jeremy has not had much of a chance to show his speed and natural athletic ability because he decided to redshirt for football during his first season. Jeremy could not be reached for comment because Michigan State team policy prevents true freshman who are taking a redshirt from speaking with the media, but Mr. Orr was able to give some insight on his son's first season.

"He's enjoying himself and he's learning the system," Larry said. "He can't wait to play and he understands the purpose of redshirting so he's pretty comfortable with it though he does want to play but he's not disappointed. He's excited to be on the team."

Jonathan also speaks with his brother frequently.

"He's mentally there, his play making capabilities are there but he just has to get a little bit bigger and stronger," Jonathan said. "But he's learning to deal with it and he's using his redshirt year for the best."

Once spring rolls around, Jeremy Orr will finally get to display his speed on the Michigan State track team. As his father said, Jeremy is the faster of the two Orr brothers. During his junior year at Henry Ford High School in Detroit, Mich., Jeremy broke Michigan State alum and current Detroit Lion Charles Rogers's record in the 200-meters. Jeremy will most likely compete in that event as well as the 100 and possibly the 400 according to his father.

Running track was one of the biggest deciding factors for Jeremy when he was making his college choice. He had been recruited by Wisconsin but if he were to take a track scholarship with the school, he would not have been guaranteed a walk-on spot on the football team Mr. Orr said. Ultimately, Michigan State proved to be the perfect fit for Jeremy.

"A lot of the schools had done away with men's track or were planning on getting rid of men's track because of certain problems that they had run into," Larry said referring to schools not having a men's track team due to Title IX violations. "Jeremy wanted to play football but he also wanted to run track; that was important to him. MSU afforded him the opportunity to run track and to become the preferred walk on, on the football team."

While Jeremy is just starting to get his feet wet at Michigan State, Jonathan has been involved in the Wisconsin offense for three years. Like Jeremy, he redshirted his first season at the university but once that season was over, he jumped right into the rotation. In his first season on the field, he started 13 games and had a team high, as well as freshman record, 842 receiving yards off of 47 catches. Since then, Orr has fit perfectly within Wisconsin's unselfish receiving corps.

"Brandon Williams and Darrin (Charles) and Brandon white, they're all great receivers," Jonathan said. "We all could probably be on any other team or other teams in the country and probably be the No. 1 go-to guy but we understand that it's a bigger goal in line that we can't get it individually so everybody just embraces their role. However you have to contribute, you just do it. I think unselfish is a good word to describe our receiving corps."

Besides being unselfish on the field, both Jonathan and Jeremy have learned to do the same in life. Larry Orr has been a Pentecostal minister since 1977 and instilled beliefs in his sons at an early age that have stuck with them as college students.

"I would sit down and explain to them things, not so much really about the Bible per say, but about the Bible and how it related to everyday life," Larry said. "It's difficult for a child, or a younger person to understand the precepts that are in the Bible, and sometimes it's difficult for adults to understand. If you can make it relevant to what's going on in their life, how does this relate to something in the Bible and then how do you acknowledge God in this situation? Then they can better understand it. Then they know how to put the word of God to use in their everyday life; and that's the important part about it."

Larry not only made sure his sons had a strong belief system at an early age but he can be credited for getting them involved in athletics. When Jonathan and Jeremy were young, Larry was very involved with martial arts and would take his sons to tournaments to show them the nature of competitive sports. He also placed them in swim lessons at the YMCA, but ultimately both boys ended up on the football field.

Jeremy started playing football when he was about seven years old while Jonathan started at about eight or nine. Jeremy has not given up the sport ever since. Jonathan did quit when he was 10 or 11 but then returned the season after his absence. Larry commented that he did not force either son to play football, nor did he get upset with Jonathan's decision to quit for a year; it was all about making sports available to his sons as a learning tool.

"I'd encourage them to just participate in physical activity so they learned at a very early age, the benefits of being in good shape but they also learned the nature of being competitive, how to be fair, how to be honest, and not only how to be a gracious winner but how not to be a sore loser," Larry said.

Larry, as well as 50-60 Orr family and friends will be present at Spartan Stadium to support Jonathan and Jeremy Saturday. A majority of the group will be sitting on the Wisconsin side, Larry said, because Jonathan received more tickets for the game. The biggest questions now arise; does this mean the Orr family is rooting for Wisconsin? Or will they be wearing the Michigan State green and white amongst the section of red and white?

"I'm going to be wearing the shirt of my sons' team," Larry stated firmly. "When people ask me, what team do you want to win? I say my sons' team. That keeps me out of trouble."


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