John Norman Making Big Plays for Texas Tech
November 9, 1998
By Charlie Rapier, Texas Tech Athletic Media Relations - John Norman came to Texas Tech as a freshman expecting the opportunity to play his freshman year. The 6-1, 210-pound sophomore from Midland, Texas, has been a huge part of the success that the (6-3, 3-3) Texas Tech Red Raiders are experiencing this season.
Norman has the third most tackles on the team with 75, including two for a loss, a fumble recovery for five yards and one interception against Texas A&M. As the Red Raiders punt returner, he has returned 18 for 168 yards with a long of 28 yards. On kick returns, Norman is ranked first in the Big 12 Conference and Ninth in the NCAA with 10 returns for 284 yards averaging 28.4 yards per carry including a long of 86 yards.
Two weeks ago against then 18th-ranked Missouri, Norman recorded seven tackles. After a bye last weekend, this week Norman and the Red Raider "Swarm" defense are gearing up for a crucial match-up against the No. 18 Texas Longhorns at Jones Stadium marking the last home game for the 1998-99. This weekends game is also the fourth-straight nationally-ranked team that Tech as faced this season.
"The Longhorns are going to be a tough matchup. First we would like to stop their running game with Ricky Williams and then focus on the pass," Norman said.
Norman graduated from Midland Lee High School in 1997 after an incredible high school football career and compiling a list of accomplishment as long as any in the country. He was a Parade All-America selection as a senior and two-time first-team all-state honoree. He was named the state defensive MVP by the Associated Press and was listed as the fourth-best defensive back in the nation and fourth best prospect in the state of Texas by Superprep. The Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle chose Norman as one of the top 100 players in the state. The Waco Tribune Herald picked him as one of the top 30. He was named the top prospect in the South Plains region by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and was member of the A-J Fabulous 44. The Austin American-Statesman also named Norman to their Fab 55. Sporting News listed Norman as one of the top 15 defensive backs in the nation and was selected to play in the THSCA all-star game where he recorded 11 tackles in the game. Norman was also a member of the Texas Football Top 75 and was a Student Sport Magazine and Scholastic Coach Magazine All-America selection. He was a two-time district 4-5A defensive MVP and all-West Texas super team member.
During Norman's high school career he recorded 80 tackles, six interceptions, eight pass breakups and two fumble recoveries as a senior. On the offensive side of the ball, Norman led Lee High School with 16 catches for 562 yards and six touchdowns, including one rushing touchdown. As a senior, he registered 21 career interceptions, finished second in the state in the 300-meter hurdles with a time of 36.94. He also ran on state third-place 1600-meter relay that ran 3:15.08.
Norman's experience from the change of playing high school football to college was different.
"From playing at Lee to Texas Tech was a big jump. The speed of the game is faster and the players are bigger, stronger and everyone is really good. As coach would say, "there are no chicken fry's out there," Norman said.
Norman attended Texas Tech in 1997. He saw significant action in all 11 games as a backup to all-Big 12 selection Dane Johnson at free safety and on special teams. He recorded 45 tackles on the season, including 26 solos. Norman's top defensive game was eight tackles at Nebraska and recorded his first collegiate interception against Kansas with a 27-yard return to stop the Jayhawks scoring threat. One of Norman's most memorable plays happened when on a fake-punt a pass from Dane Johnson was intended for another player but was deflected into the air and found its way into Norman's hands for a first down. The play was included as one of ESPN's plays of the year. On special teams, Norman returned three kicks for 65 yards on the season, including a 27-yard effort against Oklahoma and blocked a punt to cause a safety against North Texas.
Heading into this season as the starter replacing Dane Johnson at free safety, Tech coaches feel that Norman is a very hard worker and a talented athlete who will be an all-star candidate as a sophomore. He is already probably one of the top safeties in the Big-12 Conference and is a much heralded player with a great team-oriented attitude.
"John Norman has a chance to be a big-time football player. He really enjoys practice every day and works hard. I think he will be playing football for a long, long time. He is a big hitter and is a real leader on our defense," defensive coordinator John Goodner said.
This weekend the Red Raiders will suit up against the No. 18 Texas Longhorns at 6:00 p.m. in the final home game at Jones Stadium for the 1998-99 season.
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