Jun 1, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman walks to the practice field for organized training activities at the team's practice facility at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE
We've already heard a lot of rumblings from the rookie 5th round pick out of Coastal Carolina (Go Chanticleers!), like that time when he walked into off-season mini-camp and said he was going to shut down All-Pro WR Steve Smith on his first official day on the job as the (at that time) Panthers backup CB. If you overlook the fact that Smitty knew it was just an off-season workout and he wasn't going to overwork himself by going all out on every play, you would believe that Norman was a man who didn't just talk the talk, but he also walked the walk.
This attitude carried over with Norman into training camp, where on the first day at Wofford College he was seen trying to make a highlight reel play that ended up costing him a slight ego bruise after being burned by Smitty, and even worse - a special trip via golf cart by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson where the Big Cat took time out of his busy afternoon of sitting in the Big Cat Cruiser* to remind Norman of the Rules and Regulations.
* - I don't know if this is the official name of JR's golf cart, but it should be.
Of course, none of us know exactly what Richardson said to Norman on the field, because we couldn't hear him - but in our little fantasy of "this is JR's world, and we're just living in it", I like to imagine that he said something to the effect of "Boy, don't you know who that is?! That's Steve MF'ing Smith!".
Anyway, for all the brashness that seems to come out of Josh Norman - and, for the record it must be noted: brashness in a CB is a good thing - he also understands that in order to be successful in the NFL one must strive to be the best they can be in everything they do. In order to accomplish that goal, Norman sets personal goals for himself and attempts to achieve them, one by one.
Continue reading after the jump...
The following tweet from the Panthers Official Twitter Feed illustrates one of those goals:
"I know what I want to be. I approach it with goals. My first goal is to start," says CB Josh Norman (@j_no24).— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 14, 2012
Well, goal one - completed. Norman started opposite of Christ Gamble last Sunday in Tampa, and unless I missed it, he didn't look that bad on the field. Of course, he didn't set the world on fire and make everyone realize that the Panthers had drafted the next Darelle Revis, but at the same time he didn't appear to look like he didn't belong on the same field as the other players either. In short: it wasn't an All-Pro performance, but it wasn't a "why the heck did we draft this guy?" performance either.
Norman isn't completely satisfied with just being a starting CB in the NFL though. He has other goals, as we see below:
I think it's safe to say that we're all behind Norman and hope he can accomplish those goals. I also think that he has the tools necessary to be a successful starter in the NFL, and even if he falls short of his goal to become a Pro Bowl Cornerback, being a consistent starter on a winning team is an amazing feat in and of itself, especially for a 5th round pick from a tiny school in Coastal South Carolina.
One thing that must be mentioned here, and it is featured in Max Henson's profile of Norman over at Panthers.com: when he went down in training camp with a hamstring injury, Norman didn't sulk on the sidelines with a "woe is me" attitude. Instead, he buried himself in the playbook, taking advantage of the opportunity to learn even if he wasn't able to put it into practice on the field.
From Henson's feature:
"I sat down and really got back into my playbook," Norman said. "I got down to the plays and what the coaches want us to run and once I got that figured out, it started to click for me on the sideline. When I got in the practice, I just tried to put that into it. It just rolled from there."
Putting all of Norman's bravado aside, I think it's great that he understands the path to greatness in the NFL is a process that requires more than natural ability. He knows that it requires a lot of hard work - both on and off the field - and even though he walked into camp on the first day with an "I'm ready to conquer the world" attitude, I think it's his ability to grasp the reality of being a rookie player and having to earn everything you get in the League that will help him towards accomplishing all the goals he has set for himself.
As Panthers fans, at least we know this: if he doesn't accomplish his goals, it won't be for lack of hard work. But as we've all seen countless times before, the players who work the hardest normally are the ones who come out on top in the end - especially if the player already had natural talent to start with. For Norman, we can all hope that proves true once again.