Eastern football mourns Orozco

Adam Tumino, Editor-in-Chief

The Eastern football community joined many others in mourning Monday for Eastern Director of Football Performance Joe Orozco, who died over the weekend at the age of 30.

“Coach Orozco was such a vibrant member of our athletic staff and football program,” Eastern Athletic Director Tom Michael said in a statement Monday. “It was a shock to the system to hear the news that a young person that was so full of life and energy had passed away.  He was someone that brought such passion for his work, our players and the EIU football program every day. His presence will truly be missed.” 

Orozco was one of the first hires made by head coach Adam Cushing when he took over the football program in December 2018.

Orozco worked alongside Cushing at Northwestern as well, where he served as an intern, graduate assistant and assistant coach.

“I’m heartbroken and cannot find the words to express my feelings about Joe,” Cushing said in a statement.” He exuded passion and enthusiasm for the young men he served every minute of every day. Everyone in our program is fortunate for every second being influenced by him, me included. Our entire program, and lives, will have an enormous void which will never be filled, but we will honor Joe the way I know he wants: together, as a family, with extreme passion for our opportunity each day.”

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald also made a statement on Orozco’s death.

“Our entire Wildcats family is devastated to learn of the passing of former football performance coach Joe Orozco,” Fitzgerald said. “Aside from being a rising star in our game, Joe was a beloved colleague with boundless energy, and the type of person whose incredible attitude at any hour of the day picked up those around him.”

Members of the current Eastern football team and coaching staff also shared their thoughts on Orozco, as did other members of the Eastern athletic department.

Eastern wide receiver Matt Reyna took to Twitter Monday, as did many of his teammates.

“Lost for words, Rest In Peace to one of the most passionate and caring people I’ve ever met. Your energy will forever live through us,” Reyna tweeted.

“A great coach, a great man, and a great soul,” offensive lineman Ben Solomon tweeted. “You will be missed Coach O. Love and prayers to you and your family.”

Eastern wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Mark Philmore II tweeted as well, quoting one of Orozco’s favorite phrases.

“‘If you’re JUICELESS, you’re USELESS’ is all that needs to be said. You will be deeply missed dear friend,” Philmore said.

The thoughts pouring in on social media went beyond the football community. Eastern basketball player Josiah Wallace added his thoughts, as did Eastern softball head coach Tara Archibald.

“Prayers. Heart breaking news. Tough day for the whole EIU family,” Wallace tweeted.

“Heartbroken for @EIUPantherFB. I’ll never forget how impressed I was w/ Coach Joe’s energy, intensity & passion on the sideline at my 1st EIU football game,” Archibald tweeted. “I later realized, he brought that same gameday energy in everything he did. Such an inspiration.”

Coles County Coroner Ed Schniers said that an autopsy is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. tomorrow. He said he currently believes that the cause of death is attributed to natural causes.


Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]