At first glance, Albion College running back Clinton Orr appears to be no different than any other student on campus. Everyone who greets the 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound runnng back is met with an impeccable smile and a gentle voice asking, "How is it going?"
Until recently, no one except for Clinton’s closest friends and family knew about the troubled past that was hiding layers beneath his soft-spoken personality and eye-popping box score statistics.
Orr, who is in his junior season with the Britons and has a good chance of breaking the school's career rushing record before season's end, grew up in the crime-heavy city of Benton Harbor, Mich., without a father.
"It was me, my mom, and seven siblings," Orr said. "I never knew my dad."
At just 11 years old, Orr had to work at a local market to make money and bring food home for his two older sisters, two younger brothers, three younger sisters and unemployed mother.
Despite Orr’s efforts, the family often could not enjoy holidays and at times went days without the bare living essentials.
"It was tough. We had a lot of times where we didn’t celebrate Christmas. No heat. No water," Orr said. "So you just had to maintain whichever way possible."
During this time, Orr began hanging around a group of ten kids who often got into fights, vandalized property, and broke into stores, among other illegal activities.
Constant legal troubles and poor living arrangements eventually led to Clinton and his younger siblings being taken into the custody of Child Protective Services. He was 13 years of age, and Orr still remembers the exact date it happened.
"It was March 30, 2003," he said, moments after he paused to collect his thoughts. "It killed me really bad because I knew what I was leaving behind. I always told my sisters I would never let anything happen and that I would never let us get broken apart."
Shortly after the separation, Orr lost contact with his little brothers, Dequin and Devon Thompson. He hasn’t reconnected with them.
"Up to this point they don’t know me anymore. I don’t know what they look like anymore," Orr said as he briefly glanced to his right. "As far as I know, they got their names changed. It kills me and it hurts me more that I don’t know my little sisters and brothers. I have foster sisters and brothers, but nothing is like being with your biological sisters and brothers and being able to be a role model for them."
Over the next few years, Clinton continued to break the law and estimates he went to juvenile facilitation more than 20 times.
It was not until a judge gave Orr his longest sentence of around two years that he realized a lifestyle change was needed.
"[The judge] told me either I can straighten up or I can serve life just like the rest of them," Orr said. "That changed me. It changed my whole mindset from being a criminal to wanting to at least try straightening up."
Shortly after Orr’s release, he was placed with a foster family in Benton Harbor. The arrangement did not work out well for long.
Orr eventually went to four other court-appointed foster homes in Berrien Springs, Niles, and Buchanan between seventh grade and his freshman year of high school. The in-and-out foster home trips ended when Clinton met Reid and Kasey McBeth.
At first, Orr had a hard time adjusting to the rules of the McBeth household, but after a lengthy conversation with Reid there were no more issues between Clinton and his new family.
Perhaps the most surprising part of Clinton’s past is that he did not touch football until his freshman year of high school.
“I had never known what football was before my freshman year of high school,” Orr said as he grinned about the memories.
Reid, who was the assistant head football coach for Buchanan High School, where Orr would later star, taught Clinton how to play the game and even watched late-night film with him to help improve his game.
“My dad took me under his wing and I probably went to 15 or 20 camps in high school,” Orr said about Reid’s role in his earliest football experiences.
Clinton had gotten a lot of attention from small colleges by the end of his junior season, but found out he would not be able to play sports due to a Michigan High School Athletic Association age rule if he returned for his senior season. Orr would have been too old to compete because he had been held back in second grade, so he opted to take online courses and graduate high school early.
So, how did Albion get such a great talent with a seemingly endless skill ceiling? The Britons’ coaching staff has Assistant Coach Dusty Beurer to thank for bringing in the star tailback.
“Coach Beurer brought me on a visit, brought me to a game, and showed me around. I knew that was the kind of atmosphere I wanted to be in. I love it here.
“My success blows me away a lot just because of where I came from. I didn’t know that I had any of these abilities,” Orr said modestly. “I give it all to my family even if it’s my foster family or my biological family.”
Orr’s mother, Mawanda Moore, was recently released from prison and is proud of her son’s achievements. While she was serving her time Clinton struggled emotionally and contemplated quitting football.
“When she went away it kind of messed up my career a little bit at one point because I didn’t want to do it anymore just for the simple fact she was gone,” Orr said. “Now that she’s out I feel way better. I’m just glad my mom is still here.”
Mawanda and the rest of Clinton’s biological family are still struggling and continue to call him for financial help, which he helps them with.
“I don’t have much, but everything I have I always give to them no matter if it’s the last couple of dollars in my pocket,” Orr said.
Looking back on everything, Orr says he has no regrets about anything and believes he learned a lot of valuable lessons from his experiences.
“I know I made a bunch of bad decisions I shouldn’t have made, but it led me here,” Orr said.
Today, Orr uses football as a way to escape from his problems, and he sets high standards for himself on and off the field.
“I have pretty good grades, but I want to do way better,” Orr said. “I want to win conference. I want to achieve something big as a team. I just want to leave everyone with something positive.”
One thing is for sure, considering everything Clinton Orr has been through makes a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Assocation championship seem like an easy goal to reach.