Since joining the Washington Redskins three years ago, All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman has made contributions that extend far beyond his on-field performance.
He launched his own charitable foundation, "Starz24," in 2017 to "provide enrichment to children through community events and youth programs," according to his website. He's supported local causes, like providing D.C. middle school students with backpacks and school supplies, and responded to natural disasters, donating and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to help residents of Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Just last month, Norman visited Flint, Mich. to assist and shed light on the ongoing water crisis.
Norman's latest philanthropic event, held Saturday afternoon at Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C., brought him back to the place where his NFL career began for his seventh annual celebrity basketball game. In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America, Norman's Starz24 foundation brought together a variety of former and current NFL players for the charitable contest, with the proceeds benefiting kids and teenagers around the country.
"It's everything, because every day this doesn't happen," Norman said. "Every day we don't get the community coming together, have a good time, see some of the guys that they normally wouldn't see every day. And to come out here and actually be involved, that's what it's all about."
Since 2013, Norman has hosted his annual event at Lander University in his hometown of Greenwood, S.C., but he said both sides "couldn't work out the timing" this year, prompting the change of location. In speaking after his team's one-point overtime defeat, Norman said he plans to bring the event back to South Carolina in 2020 and continue building it from there.
Returning to Charlotte also remains a future possibility, especially with how Saturday's event unfolded.
"Everybody showed up and came out. It was a packed crowd, and everybody had fun," said Norman, who was able to provide buses for Greenwood students to attend the game. "We wanted to hear the crowd. We took it to overtime for them. It was exciting, so that's what it's all about."
The star-studded event included Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens and longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown in addition to Norman and former Redskin Anthony Lanier II. A couple of Norman's current and former teammates were also in attendance. Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly helped coach Norman's team, while quarterback Cam Newton and newly-signed Redskin Landon Collins patrolled the sidelines for the squad representing the Boys and Girls Club of America.
The Panthers, who are based in Charlotte, selected Norman in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Coastal Carolina, and he played his first four seasons there before signing a long-term deal with the Redskins in 2016.
"Charlotte is a part of home," Norman said. "South Carolina, North Carolina, it's the same thing. I feel like I spend a good amount of my time here and throughout my career …so that's really why I still come back here. I still got love, still got support, still just want to let them know that I'm doing everything I can for the community."
The fans in attendance were treated to a light-hearted, back-and-forth contest that grew more and more competitive as the game wore on. There were contested perimeter jumpers, acrobatic layups and even a rim-rattling, two-handed slam from Lanier. Down the stretch, both teams enlivened the crowd with deep three-pointers.
The drama then reached its peak in the final seconds, as Norman was fouled attempting the game-winning shot and earned three free throws. One conversion would have all but sealed a victory.
Instead, Norman missed all three attempts and the game went to overtime, where his team lost by a point for the second straight year. As expected, some playful criticisms about Norman's free throw shooting followed.
Norman took the jokes in stride, of course, joyfully posing for pictures with players and coaches and interacting with fans after the game -- cherishing his latest opportunity to give back to the communities that have shaped him.
"It's everything that I do. It's my purpose in life: to give back to the people that I can," Norman said. "For me, it's always something that I look forward to each and every year because it's a part of me, it's who I am. When I was young, I didn't really have that role model or no one to really look up to like that, so when I got to where I'm at today, I just made sure to try and not leave any child behind and do everything I can for them to be able to succeed and be a good person in society today.
"That's the real part of it, because we need a lot of really good people right now."