Emerging NFL Star Forced To Retire At 24 Years Old
Imagine working for 24 years to realize your dream, finally achieving it, and then having it ripped away from you in the blink of an eye. That's Zach Orr's story.
Orr was an undrafted free agent for the Baltimore Ravens after leaving North Texas. He broke out in 2016 to lead the Ravens with 132 total tackles, putting him on par with Ray Lewis' best performances in Baltimore. He was about to receive a major payday for his incredible season, but a doctor's diagnosis shut down his dream.
After suffering an injury the final week of the season, doctors found something much more serious lurking in his CAT scan. They found a congenital issue with his neck and spine, which gives Orr an increased risk of paralysis or possibly death. Just like that, Orr's football career was over.
He didn't really have a choice. When it comes to spinal injuries, the doctor's decision isn't something you can fight.
"I feel like my hands were kind of tied," Orr said in his press conference. "I won't be able to pass a physical. If I could pass a physical, who knows? I would probably take that chance."
After letting the shocking news settle in, Orr started to realize he was lucky to even be alive. At any moment in his football life, he could have taken a fatal hit.
"Everybody that broke down the situation to me were at a loss for words," Orr said. "They were trying to figure out how I was playing football this long without anything major happening. I look at it as a blessing."
Orr's story is different than some of the other tragic injury stories associated with the NFL. Other players made their own decision to walk away before suffering a traumatic injury, and Orr didn't have a choice.
Orr's forced retirement came as a surprise to his teammates too. His brothers on defense were there to support him at his retirement press conference, and safety Eric Weddle also took to Twitter to share his love for Orr.
Football is a dangerous game, but it's not worth losing your life over. Hopefully, Orr's next opportunity will provide him another avenue for success. At 24 years old, he has a lot of life ahead of him.