Attention on Kareem Orr helps Notre Dame team

photo Notre Dame's Kareem Orr (1) breaks through the Signal Mountain defense and scores a touchdown on the opening kickoff in this file photo.
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Notre Dame High School can boast quality skill guys from quarterback Alex Darras and running back Auston Banks to defenders Tyler Enos, Kealey Green and Ricky Ballard.

And then there is attention-grabbing Kareem Orr, the versatile receiver and defensive back and another of the junior standouts. He is the team's ringleader and perhaps its heart.

"I tell him he's the attitude leader for the team," Irish coach Charles Fant said. "When it looks like he's having fun and working his tail off, it just pulses through the team."

Orr, though, considers himself to be just one ingredient in Notre Dame's talent mix.

"We have cohesive units, guys that play well together," he said. "I try to do what I do on instinct, and I always try to keep that positive energy."

Orr has 61 catches, eight touchdown receptions and more than 1,000 receiving yards, and the Irish play off what teams are unwilling to allow the 6-foot, 190-pounder. If they're not going to allow him to run free, then there's always somebody else whether it's the scatback Banks or someone else. On defense, if teams go away from Orr and over the linebackers, there's always Ballard, who Fant says has gone from great runner to great cover cornerback.

"It's amazing when teams double- and triple-team him in coverage and it opens the door for others," Fant said. "One game, Chris Hornsby made four big catches that moved the chains for us. When the ball is snapped, teams have guys shifting to Kareem's side of the field."

That type of coverage has made life even easier for Banks, the talented runner that has worked so hard to add slip and slice to his 4.4 speed. Banks is just 6 yards shy of 1,200 for the year.

"Kareem brings that big-play attitude on offense. Our offensive mindset changes without that deep threat on the field, because we're constantly looking at single coverages," Fant said.

"It's a team effort," added Orr, who's drawn attention from Ohio State and Tennessee. "I'm not worried about the notoriety. My granddad told me a long time ago: Stay humble, keep my feet on the ground and make good decisions. You work hard every day, take every rep you can get and don't take them lightly."

Like several of his teammates, taking reps is often double duty because Orr also plays defense, which may be his future as a collegian.

"There were 600 of the best players east of the Mississippi at a three-day Ohio State camp, and he went one-on-one with close to 40 kids. I saw maybe one ball caught on him and he had probably 11 interceptions," said Fant, a quality high school quarterback who became a wide receiver at Vanderbilt.

The coach sees Orr as a lock-down corner at the next level, which he believes will be FCS.

Where he plays college ball is at best in the back of Orr's mind for the moment.

"I like to catch, I like to cover. The big thing, though, I like doing it for my team," he said.

Contact Ward Gossett at or 423-886-4765. Follow him at