Wiedmer: Chattanooga's Kareem Orr coming home to share Super Bowl success with family, friends

AP file photo by Kelvin Kuo / Chattanooga native Kareem Orr, a high school star at Notre Dame and a collegiate standout at UTC, was on the practice squad for the Los Angeles Rams this past season as they put together a run to the Super Bowl title.

Nearly a month has come and gone since former Notre Dame High School and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football star Kareem Orr stood on the sideline as a member of the Los Angeles Rams practice squad for Super Bowl LVI.

Major League Baseball's work stoppage, which delayed spring training and will lead to a later start than planned for the regular season, is over. March Madness is upon us. The Masters is just around the corner.

"And I'm still getting calls and texts about the Super Bowl," Orr said. "It's surreal."

And to make sure the surreality continues for at least a few more months, Orr has already been re-signed by the Rams for another training camp at the very least.

"I still have to make the team," the 25-year-old defensive back said Wednesday afternoon. "But at least I already know where I'll be. I'll be back with the Rams."

He'll be back in Chattanooga this weekend with L.A. teammate Robert Rochelle to show off a replica of the Super Bowl trophy at a Saturday night event at The Signal on Chestnut Street, near the same Finley Stadium where Orr was once a standout for the Mocs. As previously reported in the Times Free Press, the For My City Super Bowl Bash will include a two-hour meet-and-greet event with Orr and Rochelle from 6-8 p.m for $25 a ticket. The Mega Bash party begins at 10 p.m. and lasts until closing, with tickets $10 for men and admission free for women.

"I hope a lot of people will come," Orr said. "I'm going to invite the UTC basketball team. They deserve to be celebrated for winning the SoCon tournament. David Jean-Baptiste and I were friends when I played here, and I was ecstatic when he hit the shot to win it in overtime. He was open at the end of regulation, but they didn't see him."

Anyone attending Saturday will get to see a full-sized replica of the Lombardi Trophy. They may also get to hear from Orr about how he took a page from Fort Payne, Alabama, native and Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson, who apparently skipped his halftime locker room meetings to catch the spectacular Super Bowl halftime show featuring Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre and others.

"Yeah, I ran into the locker room at halftime," Orr said. "Then I ran right back out to catch the halftime show."

photo AP photo by Jeff Lewis / Chattanooga native Kareem Orr was on the active roster for the Los Angeles Rams during their 30-23 road win against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 13.

As soon as the Rams won 23-20, he sought out Bengals safety and longtime friend Vonn Bell, who prepped at Ridgeland in northwest Georgia.

"I spoke to him for a brief second," Orr said. "I know he was sad he didn't win."

Then, after the trophy presentation and confetti landing in his hair and all that, he returned to the locker room, where he met television star and comedian Cedric the Entertainer.

Even before that, Orr's high school coach at Notre Dame was experiencing his own surreal moment as he caught more than one glimpse of the former Fighting Irish star on the field during the celebration.

"We could see Kareem on the field during the game and on the podium for the trophy presentation," Charles Fant said. "That was one of our own out there. A wonderful moment."

To know the work Orr has put in to to reach this point - the summer workouts, the winter weightlifting, the physical pain that all pro football players live with - is to make his results even sweeter. And whether he ever remains on an active roster for an NFL team, he's paid $10,000 a game for every week he remains on the practice squad. Over the course of the season, he can earn close to $200,000.

"That's before taxes, of course," Orr said.

Nevertheless, it's quite an accomplishment, and Orr's excited to share it this weekend with the people closest to him.

"This is just a chance to thank everyone back home for all the love and appreciation they've shown me," said Orr, who has been fitted for the Super Bowl ring he'll receive at the start of the 2022 season. "They know where I came from. They know how hard I've worked to get here."

That includes Fant, even if he didn't know it would lead to a moment like this one.

"Nobody knew nine to 10 years ago that Kareem would be bringing home the Lombardi Trophy for our (Notre Dame) kids to hold," he said. "It just goes to show that if you work hard enough, dreams are possible."

photo Mark Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @TFPWeeds.