Redskins cornerback Josh Norman is still getting initiated with his new organization and city – for example: he attended Saturday's Draft Day Party and then skipped over the White House Correspondents' Dinner that night. He's been a busy man.
In the middle of this whirlwind since singing a lucrative contract with the team more than a week ago, Norman wanted to provide some greater context about his life and game as he makes one of the biggest transitions in his career.
He does so in a newly published Players' Tribune article, which captures everything from his childhood to his upcoming matchups with Odell Beckham Jr.
Here are seven things we learned:
1. Norman never got picked for street backetball as a kid
Most people have had this experience in their life, getting picked last for something, sometimes being disregarded as though you don't exist. Norman felt that way when it came to playing basketball on his street. Even his four older brothers would neglect him. He had to play by himself.
"I was skinny and shy. I'd be out there by myself, slamming the ball, yelling, crying …
"At home, I had to hide my food. I'd always cook up some eggs, grits and bologna. We usually didn't have enough money for bacon. We only had the po' man's meat. If I left my plate out for a minute, my older brothers would try to steal my damn bologna, and I was too small to stand up for myself."
2. The biggest mistake his brothers made was letting him put on a helmet
"They let me get in the dirt. Now, all of a sudden, the same dudes who used to steal my "next" were hearing a very particular sound. It's a sick sound, really. I'll never forget the first time I heard it. It's the *crack *of a football helmet obliterating some poor dude's chest protector. Then you hear him wheezing. You see the spirit draining right out of his body."
Norman writes that he was shy in school. But put him in the dirt and he transformed. He was a "savage," and ever since he put on a helmet, he's repeated the same three words to himself every time he goes on the field.
"Seek and destroy."
The Washington Redskins announced on Friday, April 22, the signing of free agent cornerback Josh Norman. Here's a gallery of photos from his career.
- Football isn't unfair. Life is unfair.**
One of Norman's idols growing up was Bob Sanders for the way he hit wide receivers, and he quickly defends the hunter's mentality on the field.
"Football isn't unfair. Life is what's unfair. Getting your bologna taken is what's unfair. Football is barbaric. It's animalistic. It's my will versus your will. It's all those things. But it's not unfair. That's why I love it."
Norman's favorite superhero is Batman, because Bruce Wayne came up through darkness. The cornerback relates. He remembers sitting in bed tossing a football up in the air with the lights off, using his other senses to help him. "Over time, I didn't need to see the ball anymore. I could feel it coming."
4. He cut grass with his cleats
I'm almost positive this isn't just a metaphor. Norman writes about not getting recruited by any major colleges out of high school. He went to Horry Georgetown Technical College and lived with his brother, who attended Coastal Carolina.
"I went to class during the day, and when I came home at night, I would cut grass.
"I'm not talking about no Remington lawn mower. All I needed was a pair of spikes. I just started backpedaling and churning up grass, and I wouldn't stop until I was dead tired. I didn't need orange cones. I didn't need headphones. All I keep telling myself was, You're hungry. You're starving. More."
The next year, he made it as a walk-on at Coastal Carolina and broke a school record for interceptions (8) in his sophomore year.
- He was pissed about being drafted in the fifth round.**
Getting drafted is usually a momentous, joyous occasion. For Josh Norman, it was something less. Sure, he was glad to be on an NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, but he knew he was better than a fifth-round draft pick. Those in the Red Robin watching the draft erupted, but Josh couldn't fully share their enthusiasm.
"Was I happy? I was not. I was pissed. Because that's just who I am. That's how I got here. Fourteen other cornerbacks went before me. I wrote those names down. Oh yeah, I did. Very few people believed in me, and I'll never forget that."
6. It's a war inside a little box
Norman describes his duties as a cornerback, and the options that wide receivers have in front of him.
They have nine routes, he writes, whether they stand above six-feet tall or stand at his eye line.
"Hitch. Speed out. Slant. Inside curl. Outside curl. Post corner. Post. Go. Fade.
"That's it. It's so simple. The beauty is everything in between. The battle between a wide receiver and a corner is mental warfare. The mannerisms. The body language. The eyes.
"Speed? A 40 time? Come on, man. We all fast. We're going four yards on a hitch. How are you gonna sell me on that? How you gonna fool me so you can get to your spot?"
7. He remains extremely motivated.
Norman knows the knocks on him, especially after he signed a record-breaking deal for cornerbacks. But that doesn't discourage him at all.
"I believe I'm the best at my position," he writes, and later clarifies that he "does not talk that much S@#&." He defends his actions in his last game against the Giants, lining up opposite of Beckam. People might think they're animals, he writes, but then helps correct that assumption.
"Odell and I, we know the truth. Anybody who makes it to this level knows it. The truth is that on the football field, he's trying to steal my bologna, and I'm trying to steal his.
"See you twice a year, bro."