Feature Story – A Season-Ending Injury Teaches A Princeton Captain What Leadership Means

  • November 6, 2019

Published on GoPrincetonTigers.com | Read the full article here.

John Orr went left, planted right – and had his senior season end in a snap, not of his fingers but of his Achilles tendon.

This was in preseason, more than a week before the first game of the 2019 Princeton football season, one in which Orr was to be a starting middle linebacker and team captain, one in which he had prepared so hard to in the exact spot he was.

And then, on one routine practice play, that all changed. What’s happened since has revealed more about John Orr than any tackle or interception would have.

“He may never quite realize just how powerful of an impact he has had on the team this season,” says Graham Adomitis, another of Princeton’s three captains, along with Orr and Jake Strain.


As the 7-0 Tigers prepare to take on the equally unbeaten Dartmouth Big Green at Yankee Stadium Saturday in a matchup of nationally ranked teams, Orr continues to do what he has done literally ever since his injury. He has inspired his teammates, led them, ridden them, cheered for them, supported them and essentially done whatever it is he could do to help the team in any way he could.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what he’s done this year,” says Princeton head coach Bob Surace. “For someone who was so ready to be an on-field leader to have that part of his senior year taken away in a blink but then respond the way he has speaks to what kind of person John Orr is. He has made such an important impact on our team this year, despite not being able to play. It’s really been inspirational to watch for everyone.”

Orr has been at every practice. He has been in the locker room to speak to the team before games and to lead cheers after them. He is constantly talking to everyone, teammates, coaches, during games, doing all this with a boot on his right foot.

Actually, at first he did this while in a motorized cart, immediately after the injury and the surgery.

“He may never quite realize just how powerful of an impact he has had on the team this season.” – Graham Adomitis.

“As we made our way through camp, it was clear that he was shaping up to have a phenomenal season at linebacker, so when he went down with his injury shortly before Week 1, it was just awful for him,” Strain says. “John keeps finding ways to power through that adversity and be the leader that we needed him to be. The way that he carries himself and his team-first mentaity have inspired all of us throughout this season, and I think we have John to thank for the identity of the 2019 Princeton defense.”

Orr tore his Achilles the Wednesday before the season opener against Butler. Before that, he was primed for a huge senior year on defense. He didn’t feel any pain, only a feeling like someone had stepped on his foot. In fact, he kept running and then jogged off the field on his own.

“Then I had no feeling in my foot,” Orr says. “I couldn’t lift up my foot or activate any muscles in my calf. Then the medical staff told me it was a torn Achilles. This was while practice was still going on. I was in shock. My first thought was that my senior season was gone. This was something I’d worked for my whole career and something I’d looked forward to forever.”