A look beyond usual misconceptions.
That’s what Jonathan Orr, a former University of Wisconsin and NFL wide receiver, is offering fans in his latest professional endeavor. It has nothing to do with football, though.
Orr, a 6-foot-1 wideout from Detroit, was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft with the 172nd overall pick. He would never see the field as a rookie, however, and was released before the next season on Aug. 26, 2007.
He joined the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad a week later, but was released before month’s end. Since his release from the Raiders, Orr has pursued other things, leaving behind his once-promising football career.
“If I said I didn’t want to go back to the NFL, that would be a lie,” Orr said. “So, I would consider it, but I really don’t think that’s the road God is leading me down right now.”
Instead, Orr’s path has led him to a different profession, one that surprised everyone who knew the former Badger, including himself.
Earlier this year, Orr sat down and started writing songs just for fun. When he considered pursuing an uncertain career in music and giving up a chance to earn millions in the NFL, Orr shared his work with family and friends whom he thought would give him an honest opinion, including former UW teammate Alex Lewis.
“He talked to me before he stopped playing football, because everybody was like thinking that he’s crazy. That’s when the faith part comes into play,” Lewis said. “I told him, ‘If the Lord’s putting something else on your heart, and He’s telling you to go in a different direction, you can’t focus so much on the financial part.'”
Once he realized he wanted to continue down the path toward a music career, Orr began writing songs with greater frequency and started working on his debut album.
During the recording process, Orr came up with his artist name, D. Harp, which stands for David’s Harp, a reference to his Christian faith.
“There was a guy by the name of Saul — he was a king — and he was going through a lot of stress. So, they called David in to play his harp,” Orr said of the name. “The Bible says that when David played his harp for the king, the evil spirits left the king and he was made well.
“So, I was thinking about it like, ‘Man, I hope through my music and my desire to make music and whatever else I do, (I) can be used like David’s harp to bring healing and just help people out.'”
He also developed the name for the record, which is “The A.L.B.U.M.” The acronym, according to Orr, stands for “a look beyond usual misconceptions.”
With that, Orr set out to make a difference in the lives of others as a Christian rap artist, releasing his debut album Nov. 20.
In addition to advice on the record, Orr asked Lewis for additional help with his record. The former Wisconsin and Detroit Lions linebacker was more than willing to help.
Lewis is featured on the bonus track “Jesus Christ Cypha” under the stage name A. Lew.
“I am on the record, but I’m a rookie,” Lewis said. “You can tell the difference between me and him. He put me on the record because he’s trying to bring other people’s gifts out of them also.”
‘There’s something different about this guy’
Before they were released by their respective teams and even in the NFL, Orr and Lewis formed a special bond as members of the Wisconsin football team.
They spent just two seasons together before Lewis was drafted in the 5th round of the 2004 Draft by the Detroit Lions, but in that time, they bonded over a common Christian faith, something Lewis said he noticed early on about Orr.
“When I transferred to Wisconsin from junior college, the one thing that I realized is that if you want to be successful, you hang around successful people,” Lewis said. “When I met Jonathan, I thought, ‘There’s something different about this guy; he’s not doing what everyone else is doing.'”
Lewis was not the only one who saw something special in Orr. The former wide receiver made quite an impression on his coaches as well.
UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst recalls fond memories of Orr, calling him one of his favorite players he’s ever coached.
“I loved Jonathan. He had a great senior year, and he was a great worker. I still pull out some of his stuff and show our young guys that this is how you do it,” Chryst said. “I’ve got nothing but great memories of J.O., and I have the utmost respect for him. He’s big time.”
Chryst also noted that it was clear from the moment you met Orr that faith played a big role in his life. He did not, however, realize he was musically inclined.
“He rarely even said anything when he was on the team,” Chryst said. “That’s interesting, though, that he’s doing Christian rap. Good for him.”
So, while a career in music is certainly something that surprised everyone who knew Orr well, the fact that it was a faith-based endeavor did not.
In fact, Lewis recalled one of his best memories from his time in Madison being when he, along with Orr and current Jacksonville Jaguar (and former Badger) Scott Starks, started a Bible study in their apartment at The Regent.
Lewis and Orr each also noted that the three used to attend church services together in Madison and that all three remain close friends today, which has a lot to do with their shared faith and principles.
“My relationship with God is number one, it’s the foundation of my life,” Orr said. “The conversations that I have, the way I approach situations, the friends that I make — that’s part of why Alex and Scott and I became so close — I just have to seek Him first and do what He wants me to do.”
Orr knows he still possesses a lot of talent as a football player. While he used to believe what God wanted him to do was glorify him through his abilities on the football field, he has realized a new destiny for himself in music.
His hope now is that his music will have a significant impact on everyone who hears it.
“The goal is really to use these talents — as far as rapping is concerned — to glorify God, help edify others and really build other people up,” Orr said. “In a nutshell, I want my music to be used like David’s harp was in that situation to edify people.”