He’s not a player or a coach, but EJ Orr is an valuable member of the Loyola football program. A 2007 graduate and Northbrook native, Orr runs video and digital operations and is the scouting coordinator. After playing three seasons of football for the Ramblers, Orr decided he could better serve the team without wearing a uniform and became student manager in John Holecek’s first year as head coach. A product of St. Norbert, Orr’s been giving Loyola an edge ever since.
Maroon & Gold: You were a senior in high school when New Trier ended Loyola’s season in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs in 2006. How satisfying was it for you to beat the Trevians this year?
EJ Orr: Very. You always want to beat your neighborhood rival. Losing to them in 2006 was brutal. It still stings me. You want to win those games for school pride. When Trevor Cabanban ripped off that run to make it 28-10, I felt good, really good. It got way too close after that, but I’ll take any win over them.
M&G: Upon graduation from John Carroll University in 2011, you came back to the Chicago area and returned to assisting the Loyola football program. These days, teams are a long way from exchanging video tapes in parking lots. Describe your job.
EO: The role has evolved over the years with the advancement of technology, and my job is to make sure that we use any tool we can to our advantage. Currently, I oversee our end zone camera and press box camera, which captures the game film. This season, we started using Hudl sideline, which provides instant replay to all of the coaches on the field in real time. We use several iPads and a 50-inch flatscreen TV on the sideline, so we don’t have to wait to make adjustments. Against New Trier, we made two that may have saved us because we saw it live. That’s crazy.
M&G: But your responsibilities go beyond game days.
EO: I also am in charge of advanced scouting and making sure we have video on any upcoming opponent. I also make sure every single rep is filmed in practice. That way, the coaches can watch about 45 minutes of film each night, and the rest is broken down in the evening and sent to the players to watch on their iPads. John preaches mental reps and visualization. This is something that may separate us from other programs.
M&G: When you approached Holecek in high school, what did you know about video?
EO: Nothing. I had no experience with it whatsoever, but I figured it out. In college, I got a paying job out of it. I filmed football practices and games. That was pretty neat. I did it for four years.
M&G: I got to know your former student assistant, Phil Later, well during his time at Loyola. Who is on your crew this year?
EO: Senior Jack Wolf, senior Alzario Peters, junior Evan Nelles and junior Jimmy O’Mara. Jack is in his second year with me. He films the end zone angle for games and for practices. He also helps set up Hudl sideline for the end zone angle. The rest are in their first years. Alzario works with [offensive line coach Mike] Kotowski’s iPad and makes sure the TV is up and running, so the offense and defense can maximize corrections between each series. Evan charts plays for the defense and also works with the defensive iPad up in the coaches box. He films practices. Jimmy films the wide angle of practices and games and also helps set up the press box for me.
M&G: Was it difficult to give up playing football?
EO: Yes, but I wasn’t talented enough or physically big enough to really play. I could have run scout team or whatever, but things were much different back then. I told John I was willing to do whatever he wanted me to do to help the team. He was OK with that. It helped that coaches like Beau [Desherow], Ryan [Gallagher] and Mike had my back.
M&G: Did you receive a ring after the 2015 Class 8A state championship?
EO: Yes. But I don’t do it for that. I do it because of the people I work with. They make it worthwhile.