Zach Orr says UNT football provides him with the opportunity to be his best on and off the field

Zach Orr (Photo by Rick Yeatts)

For Mean Green standout Zach Orr, his college experience at UNT has been about more than just playing football.

"It's about being somewhere I can stay for four years and gain a lifetime of memories I can share with others," Orr says.

Now a junior, Orr says he made the right decision when he chose UNT as the place to pursue a degree in kinesiology and play football. He says supportive faculty and lasting friendships at UNT have helped to make him both a better athlete and student overall.

"I've had great experiences so far," Orr says. "At UNT, everybody is family and you get a great education."

Football family

Orr, who was born in Fairfax, Va., and moved to DeSoto at age 10, comes from a family of football players. His father, Terry Orr, played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins. Today, his two younger brothers play high school football at DeSoto High, Orr's alma mater. And his older brother played at Texas State and currently teaches and coaches at Mesquite Poteet High School.

"Surprisingly, my dad never forced any of us to play football," Orr says. "We all decided at a certain age we wanted to play."

For Zach, the age was 9. While living in Virginia, he first played football for the Ashburn Titans, a youth league team. From there, his fascination for the sport grew.

By high school, Orr had become a star player, and his passion for the sport showed on the field. As a middle linebacker for DeSoto, he was named a Texas High School All-State player his junior year.

Orr also excelled in academics. He maintained a 4.5 GPA all four years of high school and was ranked No. 22 in his graduating class.

"It's important to be able to balance football and homework," Orr says today. He maintains that same work ethic at UNT and is driven to have at least a 3.5 GPA when he graduates in spring 2014.

"You have to stay focused and you can't procrastinate," he says. "After you get out of practice, you have to be disciplined to get your homework done instead of going out and hanging with friends. I believe you can do those things, but only if you are disciplined."

Role models

Orr says he is focused not only on making good grades, but also on being a role model on campus and after leaving UNT. And equally important for Orr is supporting his teammates and performing his best on the field.

Zach Orr (Photo by Rick Yeatts)

In 2011, the middle linebacker set a career high in tackles for the Mean Green and was named defensive MVP by coaches and co-defensive captain by players.

"We all have the common goal to reach a championship," Orr says. "It's been neat joining a team and getting with a bunch of guys who are trying to turn the program around."

Orr says the team gets its confidence from the support of head coach Dan McCarney.

"He's not only a great football coach but a great man," Orr says. "He really cares about you on the field and off the field. He's like a father figure."

McCarney says it is great players like Orr who will help the Mean Green succeed.

"Zach is a dedicated athlete who is passionate about football and supporting his teammates," McCarney says. "He's also a good student overall -- everything a coach looks for in a good college athlete."

Network of support

With the support of his teammates, coaches and faculty, Orr says he is confident about achieving his academic and career goals. One of his mentors is Katherine Thomas Thomas, associate professor of kinesiology, health promotion and recreation.

"She's a great teacher," Orr says. "She gives you class lessons but also lessons about life."

Thomas says Orr understands the value of hard work and puts his best effort into everything he does. And he is willing to help other students simply because it's the right thing to do, she says.

"Zach is talented and smart, but he also understands the practice and effort necessary to take each performance to the next level," Thomas says. "He is one of those students who makes teaching a pleasure, and he has the potential to be successful at many things."

In addition to faculty support, Orr says students also have access to teacher assistants in study sessions and state-of-the-art laboratories, as well as counselors and administrators who are always willing to help.

"There are a lot of resources at UNT if you want to do well and be your best," he says. "There's no reason you shouldn't succeed with all the help around campus."

Orr is looking forward to becoming part of a support network so vital to students' success. He is in the teacher certification program at UNT and plans to pursue a career as a high school teacher and football coach or athletic director.

"I know the role models in my life are coaches," he says, "and I want to be that for young kids when I get older."

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