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Five things to know about LBs coach Ken Norton Jr.

Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Mike Morgan (57) celebrates with Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. after winning the NFL week 20 NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle. The Seahawks won the game 28-22 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Spinelli)
Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Mike Morgan (57) celebrates with Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. after winning the NFL week 20 NFC Championship football game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle. The Seahawks won the game 28-22 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Spinelli)

The Washington Commanders have finalized their coaching staff for the 2024 season, and is going to spend the next few weeks providing an inside look at their backgrounds and what they can add to the team.

Next up is linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.

1. He had a decorated career at UCLA.

Norton grew up in Los Angeles playing at Westchester High School, where he made a name for himself as a running back and averaged 8.8 yards per carry during his senior year. That earned him a scholarship to UCLA, where he decided to switch to linebacker. That choice worked out for him, because he ended up being one of the best players at his position in program history.

In the four seasons that he played for the Bruins, Norton had a wealth of success while also helping the team to one of its best stretches. The team had a 36-10-2 record with Norton as one of its starting linebackers and won four straight bowl games, the last of which was the Aloha Bowl against Florida in 1987.

Norton was a stalwart for the Bruins' defense, leading the team in tackles in 1986 (106) and 1987 (125). He was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to nation's top linebacker each season, in 1987 finished sixth in program history with 339 tackles. 

Norton ended his career as the Bruins' defensive MVP, earning First Team All-American honors. Eleven years later, Norton further cemented his status in UCLA history by being inducted into the team's Hall of Fame in 1998.

2. His dad knocked out Muhammad Ali.

Muhammad Ali is known as one of the best boxers of all time, winning six heavyweight titles and a gold medal among several other accolades. He only lost five times in his entire career, and it just so happens that Norton's father, Ken Norton Sr., was one of the boxers to accomplish the feat.

Also considered one of the best boxers of all time, Norton Sr. had a 14-year career from 1967-81, compiling a record of 42-7-1. He's a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, thanks to wins over Jimmy Young for the WBC world heavyweight championship and of course, his bouts with Ali.

Ali and Norton Sr. fought three times. Norton Sr. won the first match by split decision, breaking Ali's jaw in the second round and giving him his second defeat. Ali won the rematch six months later, also by split decision, leading to the third and final match between the two in 1976. In one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, Ali was named the unanimous victor.

Norton is a well-known boxer in his own right, and going toe-to-toe with Ali, even going so far as to get a win and break his jaw, is a strong part of his legacy.

3. He's the only player to win three consecutive Super Bowls.

Here's one of the most obvious statements in the NFL: it's hard to win a Super Bowl. Winning two in a row is even rarer; the Kansas City Chiefs just became the first team since the 2003-04 New England Patriots to accomplish the feat.

Norton, however, is one of the only players in NFL history to win three straight.

Norton came into the NFL as a second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 1988. It took a year for him to get a chance because of an injury as a rookie, but he quickly became a staple of the defense, recording 100-plus tackles in two of his four seasons. In 1993, Norton had the best season of his career, earning a Pro Bowl and Second Team All-Pro selection for recording 159 tackles, an interception and two sacks. He also helped the Cowboys win Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993, scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in Super Bowl XXVII.

Norton was signed by the San Francisco 49ers in 1994 as part of the league first free agency period, leading a defense that allowed the sixth fewest points in the league with 86 tackles to go with a forced fumble and an interception. 

The 49ers won seven of their final eight games of the regular season in 1994 and blew out the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Norton had six tackles in the 49-26 win.

4. He had a unique celebration to honor his father.

Player celebrations after a big play have been around for years. Some are iconic, like the "Lambeau Leap" or Ickey Woods' "Ickey Shuffle." Others, like the numerous that Randy Moss and Terrell Owens pulled off in their careers, are...let's just say "unique."

Norton kept it simple and used his celebrations to honor his father and his boxing background. Anytime he made a sack or an interception, he would either punch the goal post or shadow box.

One of the most memorable examples of his celebration came in 1995 against the St. Louis Rams. Just four minutes into the first quarter, Norton intercepted Chris Miller's pass and returned it 21 yards for the score. After spiking the ball, he ran over to the goal post and gave it seven uppercuts before running back to the sideline with his teammates. 

Norton did it again in the third quarter, this time building on the 49ers' 30-3 lead over the Rams with a 35-yard touchdown. Norton whaled on the goal post again, making it shake while two of his teammates cheered him on. 

Whether it was laying hits on ball-carriers or celebrating game-changing plays, Norton certainly packed a wallop.

5. He has a long history of developing linebackers.

Norton retired after the 2000 season and got into coaching four years later, joining USC's staff as the program's linebackers coach. He's been in the business for the past two decades, spending time with the Seattle Seahawks, Raiders, and UCLA before coming to Washington. The common theme among all his stops: linebackers thrive under his tutelage. 

Norton played a part in developing multiple NFL-caliber players during his time at USC. Lofa Tatupu and Clay Matthews III were named to numerous Pro Bowls in their careers, while Brian Cushing was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009.

That trend continued in the NFL, when Norton coached for the Seahawks and Raiders. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin and 2016 Defensive Player of the Year all had stellar seasons with Norton as their coach. 

Norton is inheriting a young linebacker group in Washington that's led by the likes of Jamin Davis and Khaleke Hudson. It's a young position with mixed results, but Norton's guidance should help get more consistent results.

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