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Undrafted Rookies Zachary Orr, James Hurst Beat The Odds


It seems every year there's an undrafted rookie who beats the odds and makes the Ravens roster.

This season there were two on Saturday's 53-man squad: inside linebacker Zachary Orr and offensive tackle James Hurst.

While the roster could still change, and Orr or Hurst could bounce down to the practice squad, the fact that they made the original 53 is a testament to the Ravens' feelings about them.

"I didn't know what was going to happen until the very end," Orr said.

"I just wanted to work hard each and every day and show the coaches that I could play for this team and be a part of this organization, and it worked out for the best."

Orr had his fair share of people to look up to in his quest to make the team.

The Ravens have a rich history of undrafted inside linebackers making the team, including Bart Scott, Dannell Ellerbe, Josh Bynes and Albert McClellan. Now that Orr has made the 53-man roster, he has a chance to be the next in line to add to that history.

"It's a real special feeling," Orr said. "When I first got here, Josh and Albert both came up to me that they were undrafted just like me, and they both didn't leave. They just told me that if you come out and work hard every day and take it one day at a time, I could make it just like they did and the previous linebackers did."

Orr has another special mentor as well. His father, Terry Orr, was a tight end for the Washington Redskins for eight seasons. Orr was born in Virginia, moved to Texas at age 10 and ended up playing for the University of North Texas.

He became a linebacker at a young age when his father told him to "hit anything that moves." That tenacity stuck with him, and he never left the position.

After Orr made the Ravens squad, his first call was to his father.

"He was just telling me he's very proud of me. He knows how hard I worked and how bad I wanted it," Orr said.

"I fell in love with the game of football because of him, being around it when I was younger and watching his old tapes. It's a great feeling to follow in his footsteps and be able to make it just like he did. It was always a dream of mine since I was a little kid."

The 6-foot, 237-pound Orr likely made the team as a sixth inside linebacker because of his special teams prowess. He made a hard hit in the fourth preseason game in New Orleans while covering a kickoff. Orr has good speed and works hard at special teams.

"I just try to come in and play smart, fast and physical," he said. "Whether it's on special teams or defense, if you do those three things you'll do well. That's how I've always been coached."

While Orr flew mostly under the media's radar at Ravens training camp, Hurst was a player many were talking about.

The North Carolina product perhaps went undrafted because of a season-ending leg injury suffered during his senior year. But the four-year starter was on the practice field at the start of rookie camp for the Ravens, and gradually built himself up.

Hurst had a tough assignment blocking Ravens talented Pro Bowl pass rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, not to mention Pernell McPhee, in practice. Hurst improved as camp went on, and was especially impressive in pass protection.

The Ravens opted to keep two reserve offensive tackles with Jah Reid and Hurst.

"I felt like I had a fair shot at [making the team]," Hurst said. "I felt like I definitely improved during the preseason and did everything I could to make a statement for my chance on the team.

"The first preseason game, I was just a little uncomfortable. There were a lot of new things and I had a lot of nervous energy. But just going out there and going against the guys we have on our defense really calmed me down and gave me confidence. Then the technique and consistency came on and allowed me to play better in the other three preseason games."

The 6-foot-5, 308-pounder showed he can also get out and run in the ground attack. He was the lead blocker on several long runs this preseason. Hurst said he wants to improve his overall strength, and of course work to be more consistent.

But now he and sixth-round guard/center John Urschel are two young offensive linemen the Ravens will look to groom and will rely on for depth.

"I think it's an accomplishment for both of us and a challenge for both of us," Hurst said. "We understand what they said with their roster decisions. Both of us took that and we're going to run with it. We're going to do the best we can to honor the faith the coaching staff put in us."

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