Just a Kid from Orange

If you happen to be driving through Orange, Texas, it might not seem like much at first glance. You make a right coming off the highway and you’ll see a Modica Bros Tire & Wheel. Keep driving and you’ll see a liquor store to the left, then there’s a gas station and a Kroger. To most, it might just seem like any other small town in Texas. But to me, it’s everything.

My heart and soul belong to Orange, Texas. It’s where I found my faith and my love for football.

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of my time at my grandfather’s church, where I learned about the word of God and community. While other kids might have been out causing trouble, my family made sure I stayed on the right path by keeping me at the church. My grandfather and I shared a name, so whenever I acted up, he would tell me, “You either change your ways, or you change your name.” It was frustrating sometimes being on a tight leash because I felt like I was missing out, but looking back, I now understand why they did it and how much it helped me.

I turned a lot of my focus to learning different musical instruments, and the rhythm I got from that eventually spread to other parts of my life. When you watch me on the football field — how I move, my instinctive reactions — that all comes from being in tune with my internal rhythm. It’s the foundation for everything.

I’ve played in a lot of big games in some of the largest stadiums in the country, but there’s just nothing like playing under those lights on a Friday night in Orange. It’s the football capital of Texas. If you come watch a game, you’ll understand why. In Orange, we don’t have a mall or anything like that. We have football. From a young age, we develop our athletes into tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar players who dream about state titles. We play for the pride of an entire town.

I lived for those two-a-days in the East Texas heat that has a way of just sticking to you. That’s where I became a real football player. I used to love when, right before nightfall, you could feel the wind blow and it would cool you down enough to keep on going. There was always just so much energy out on those fields. We all pushed each other to be better. When people comment on the way I play football, they’ll sometimes say, “Man, this dude has a lot of energy,” or more bluntly, “He’s playing like a crazy person.” But that’s how everybody is in Orange, Texas. We’re going to talk fast — a mile a minute — and move even faster.

Yeah, at first glance Orange might not look like all that much. But to me, it’s faith, it’s family and it’s football. No matter where I am, Orange is home.