• John Macon Gillespie

Mississippi Bloodlines: The Orr Family

Photo courtesy of Laura Orr | Pictured(left to right): Ben, Butch, Ethan, Cameron, Houston & Jaxon Orr

It happens at some point every Friday night in the fall. A player will make a big play and the crowd will cheer. When this happens, somewhere standing along that sideline fence of a Mississippi high school football field someone will say, “Reminds me of his dad,” or, “He get its honest,” or even, “You think he’s good, you should have seen his dad play.”

Laura Orr grew up around football. With her family being from Alabama, the Crimson Tide were a priority when they were on television in her living room growing up. That passion for the sport was engrained deeply into her over time, as well.

It’s still strong today, as she remains a loyal fan of the Tide. Even though she lives in Itawamba County, Mississippi.

“Growing up with two channels, I was raised on Alabama football. It was just a way of life,” Laura Orr told SES Mississippi. “One of my first lessons as a kid was that if you walk in front of the TV during a play, you’ll get a shoe thrown at your head. Back before replays.”

Laura and her husband, Butch, have passed that love for the pigskin down to each of their five sons. Houston(age 23, graduated in 2013), Ethan(age 21, graduated in 2014) and Cameron(age 19, graduated in 2017), each donned the black and gold of the Itawamba Indians before going on to play at the next level. Meanwhile, Jaxon(age 17), who is set to begin his second season as the Indians’ starting quarterback in just a matter of days, will graduate next may. Then there’s Ben, who will be an eighth grader this school year, who looks resume the Orr tradition of playing on the offensive line. Jaxon is the only brother to play a position besides OL.

“I went to Itawamba myself and I remember going to games on Friday nights. It’s just part of life,” Laura explained. “Football is just like a central, family thing. You get together to watch football games, you get football jerseys and helmets for Christmas. It’s just the whole tradition the sport,” Laura explained.

In her time at Itawamba AHS, Laura excelled on the hardwood. She even went on to play at nearby Itawamba Community College. After her sons were born and eventually introduced to sports, she soon found herself around IAHS athletics once more.

Laura has been taking photos of her sons athletic pursuits since Jaxon was in the second grade. By that time, Houston and Ethan were already playing little league football.

“It’s been a long time,” Laura noted when asked how long she had been snapping pictures from the sidelines.

And she isn’t done with Jaxon and Ben still yet to graduate. But over that time, her sons have accomplished plenty on and off the field.

Houston signed with Northeast Mississippi Community College out of high school, but navigated away from football and is set to begin medical school in the Fall of 2019. He received the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship, that will essentially cover his tuition.

Ethan signed with East Mississippi Community College in the class of 2014, and won a championship that fall as a freshman. He was also a member of the 2015 team, which was the subject of the first season of the popular Netflix documentary series Last Chance U. Eventually he suffered a career-ending ACL injury after arriving at the University of North Alabama. Now he is married and has a child.

Cameron graduated in 2017, and is now at Itawamba Community College with hopes of graduating and transferring out in December.

Last season, as a junior, Jaxon passed for 1,727 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for another 265 yards and one score. He’s also an impressive basketball player.

The youngest of the group, Ben, is entering just the eighth grade, but his mom already sees offensive line(just like his eldest three brothers) in his future.

All of the Orr boys are gifted physically, with above-average height and size. Houston, Ethan, Cameron and Ben are especially gifted in that areas, as they all have impressive frames that place them on the o-line. Jaxon plays quarterback, but still has a similar tall, long frame as his brothers, however, he’s not quite as filled in.

Laura says she’s heard “you can’t coach 6’5” in reference to her sons’ gifts, and she knows that’s true. However, she also knows it takes more than that to be successful in life and in football.

“It’s what you do with that size and ability, and that’s what we try to teach the kids,” She said. “There are so many kids who would love those gifts you have, so don’t waste them.”

“Raising kids in general, you want to raise good people who are responsible hard-workers. There are a lot of correlations between being a good person and being a good teammate.”

Certainly the Itawamba AHS program has benefitted from the lessons passed down in the Orr family. Each of the Orr boys have been standout players and leaders for the program. A program, Laura says, they intend to always be around.

“We’ll always be supportive of the team and the community. I can’t imagine not wearing black and gold on Friday nights,” She said.

“There’s nothing like being around (IAHS football). The community is so supportive of the boys. On a Friday night, you know where everybody’s going to be. It’s not just support of the football team. There’s so much backstory to the football games. You’ve got the cheerleaders, the band, the boosters for the band and the cheerleaders, the local businesses that support the community.”

As for Laura’s Alabama fandom, well that was something she just couldn’t get through to her sons. Today Houston is more of an Ole Miss, Ethan cheers for Mississippi State and Cameron goes for pretty much anyone.

“They were raised right, but what they’ve chosen now I can’t vouch for,” Laura joked.

#JohnLukeMcCord #MississippiBloodlines #Itawamba

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