Rick Orio is a small school safety who was paramount to a defense that led the NCAA in 5 categories during the 2016 season. Now he’s done with his college career and is looking at a career in the CFL for the time being. He looks to have a career path similar to Jerrell Freeman, the Chicago Bears linebacker who played Division III football at Mary Hardin-Baylor and went on to become a star in the CFL before making it to the NFL. Here I interview Mr. Orio about his college and high school career, and where he wants to go from here.
Follow Rick Orio on Twitter @or10forsix
You grew up in Massachusetts and played your high school ball at Cony High School in Maine. When did you move there, and how did you like your experience at Cony High?
- I was Born in Massachusetts, but I grew up in Longview Texas, then my 8th-grade year I moved to Maine, and played my high school football in Augusta Maine. The experience at Cony was great, I was primarily an offensive player, and I played both sides of the ball, and really fell in love with offense in high school when I lead all classes in receiving my senior season. That’s initially where I saw my football career headed. Husson University is where I truly fell in love with defense. As a kid, you think it’s all about scoring touchdowns, and as grew I just gravitated towards the defensive side of the ball.
You played your college football at Husson University which is also in Maine, how did you decide to go there, and what was the process like?
- Initially, I accepted a full ride track scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University, I was the state champion in the 300 hurdles and 4×100 meter relay my senior year, setting school records in both. I went down to New Mexico for a semester but knew I wanted to come back to Maine and play football. I transferred to the University of Maine and redshirted for a year as a wide receiver. However I realized that I wanted four years of film, and that was no longer possible since I had used up some of my eligibility, so I went across the town to Husson, met with Coach Gabby Price, and decided to go to Husson.
Husson is one of the better teams in Division 3, what was it like playing for such a successful team, and was that one of the reasons you wanted to play there?
- To be honest, the three years before I got there, Gabby Price had left after he initially started the program, and they had won only three games in 3 years. At first, I was pretty hesitant, but once I sat down with Gabby Price who had returned as head coach, it was really the man that he and his coaching staff were that got me there. I could tell there was a clear-cut brand of football that was expected at Husson. There was a sense of potential camaraderie I was drawn to, and just the way he had his program set up that it was going to be really easy to buy in.
At 5’11, 195 Lbs, you have a pretty good frame, do you feel that your size is a strength of your game?
- Absolutely, I think that my size and my toughness go hand in hand. I’m definitely a physical guy and a speed guy, you have to be aggressive as a safety. My size allows me to be a presence in the run game, while still having the ability to play hash to hash. I love to play in the box, and wherever I’m needed. Love getting in the trenches, blitzing off of the edge, blitzing through the B gap, whatever I’m needed to do.
Speaking of strengths, what do you feel that your greatest strength is as a player?
- I would probably say my athleticism, toughness, and my leadership ability. I have a high football IQ, and the ability to run a defense. Along with experience as a four-year starter, I had the honor of being a team captain in my sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, and that is something I take pretty deep pride in. Captains are selected through a coach and team vote at the end of each spring ball season, and I think those selections speak well to my leadership ability.
On the contrary, what is an area of your game where you would like to improve?
- Probably my preparation, there are always areas to improve, as a student of the game you are always learning, and definitely my recovery. Sometimes you get caught up in the process, the practices, two a days, especially in the preseason, and you can neglect the body maintenance and the recovery aspects that you need to focus on.
You had 6 career interceptions in your college career, is there one of them that sticks out as your favorite, or extra memorable?
- Our 2014 team, we ended up winning the ECFC championship I was a sophomore, and it was actually my birthday we played a game in Massachusetts Becker University, I had 2 interceptions including my first pick six, a fumble recovery, and a bunch of tackles, so that was a great day to pick up a big win, just a couple miles from where I was born, and a couple weeks before winning our school’s first gold ball.
You played 4 years at Husson, what’s one thing you have learned from the whole experience?
- As a player, I learned how to establish a standard of what to expect of myself, and of my teammates. Also, I think the ability to communicate, with any teammate from anywhere, our defense was such a diverse group of guys, and we all bought in together. I forged relationships with guys from all over the country, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why football is the greatest game in the world. I really learned how to be a good man, teammate, and a good leader. Learning how to be a better football player was just a perk. Definitely some of the biggest things I learned.
Out of all the years, you have played through high school and college, what year if any stick out as your favorite, and what made it so fun?
- I would say two stick out, my senior year in high school, I scored a lot of touchdowns and led the state in receiving, and that was great and everything. But going into college, I was never expecting that any team could offer what Husson was able to, cohesiveness was a big reason that when I talked with Gabby Price, I choose to come over. Husson football has become a force, and we’re just this small private university tucked away up in the Northeast in Bangor, Maine. The relationships I developed with my teammates and coaches are unlike any other. Specifically from my time at Husson, I would have to say my senior year (2016), we won the conference, we lead the nation in 5 different categories and we were nationally ranked in 6 (over all divisions of the NCAA), (first down, third down, overall, rushing and passing). I know that was something my coaches, myself as defensive captain, and all of my teammates were ecstatic about.
On your profile, it lists you as a Free Safety, does that safety spot fit you better?
- I feel extremely comfortable at both, I played for two different defensive coordinators at Husson, my Freshman and Sophomore year we had Jon Pritchard and then during my Junior and Senior seasons we had Grant Caserta, so I experienced two different DC’s and two unique styles of defense. I moved around a lot, I played something different pretty much every week depending on whom we were playing. Against a heavy run team I was usually in the box almost as an OLB, and if it was a spread team or a pass heavy team with good weapons I played high. I love playing free safety, it’s hard to beat being able to see everything, but I really like both spots, overall it’s hard to beat playing safety. On top of playing safety, I played special teams all four years and really enjoyed that as well. Playing in the box, playing special teams, I really enjoy doing the dirty work.
What’s one memory from your career thus far that you’ll never forget?
- Senior year at Husson, finishing the year setting the school record at 9-2, winning my second gold ball, and leading the nation in defense overall divisions. It’s crazy to think about, but I think it’s a great testament to who we are as a group, how are identity developed over 4 years.
From this point, what do you hope to make of your football career?
- Right now I am still finishing my last semester at Husson. I was offered several Arena league contracts but decided I wanted to pursue the CFL, and the 2018 CFL combine. And I’m really looking forward to a possible pro day this fall where I will get to work out in front of both CFL and NFL scouts. I was just granted my naturalization as a Canadian citizen, my mom was born and raised in Montreal. So I’m currently trying to get a CFL agent and solidify my spot in the 2018 CFL combine. I was looking at this year’s numbers from the CFL combine and I’m thinking I should stack up very well. Next month I’m going to start my training at Parisi Speed School in Saco, Maine. My ultimate goal, I want to wake up every day doing what I love, and for me that is football.
What do you want readers to know about Rick Orio / is there anything else you want to say?
- There’s no one out there that loves the game of football more than I do. You sit down with me and that is something that is very easy to see. I’m the type of guy that is going to be the first in and the last to leave. I love preparing, and every aspect of the game of football. It’s really easy for me to buy in and fall in love with my teammates and coaches. I have so much passion for this game. I feel like I’m the best small school safety in this year’s draft, and will be a top CFL prospect in 2018. I intend to prove it to any scout, GM, or team who will give me an opportunity.