By Jim Whelan
Former Elizabeth High School and Rutgers University standout Raheem Orr helped the Jon Bon Jovi Philadelphia Soul to its first-ever arena football championship.
Orr was a three-year starter at Elizabeth High School and helped lead the Minutemen to two Section Group IV championships and a 27-6 record during his playing days. Playing under Coach Jerry Moore, Orr had 146 tackles, three interceptions and caught 18 passes as a tight end for three touchdowns during his senior year in 1998. Orr was one of many of Coach Jerry Moore’s laundry list of first team All State players. Highly recruited out of high school, Orr decided to stay home and attend Rutgers University.
While at Rutgers, the Elizabeth product was one of the building blocks for the Scarlet Knights’ new energetic coach Greg Schiano. Under Schiano, Orr produced on the defensive side of the ball stating 27 of 31 games. His leadership was the cornerstone of the young budding program.
During Orr’s senior season, he was the recipient of the Homer Hazel Trophy, the Rutgers team Most Valuable Player award, in 2003. His play also earned him First Team All Big East and was a member of the Blue team in the annual Blue-Grey senior showcase on Christmas Day. Orr’s senior season was his most productive with 82 tackles. He was first in tackles for loss and second in the Big East Conference in sacks.
On NFL draft day in 2004, the Houston Texans drafted the Elizabeth standout with the 210th overall pick. Orr was signed to the practice squad and was picked up by the New York Giants due to an injury-plagued season. He suited up for two games for the Giants. Orr just completed his third season in the Arena Football League, and his second with the Soul. The Soul cut Orr early in the season and he was picked up by the Grand Rapids Rampage. Later released by Grand Rapids, Orr rejoined Philadelphia right before the playoffs to help fill a void at linebacker. Orr was a Soul team member in 2006 and 2007.
This year’s Virgin Mobile Arena Bowl was the Soul’s first-ever and was the most-watched Arena Football game in the history of the franchise. The Soul beat the San Jose Sabercats 59-56. A total of 1,288,000 viewers tuned in to see the minor league of professional football. In their fifth season, the Soul averaged 16,477 fans this season, selling out four games. Most players who don the Arena football uniform can make anywhere from $50-70,000 depending on experience. Most quarterbacks average around $100,000.
During the Arena Bowl, Orr made a key defensive play in a tight game when he broke up a pass play and sacked the Sabercats’s quarterback, which led to a safety and stopped a late comeback by San Jose. Orr still has dreams of playing in the NFL, but the Arena League is not the laughingstock it once was. The victory parade drew 10,000 Soul fans in the football-hungry city and was another stop for a local player.
Jim Whelan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.