UGA scholarship recipient Connor Norman ‘not like a Rudy’

Connor Norman has made his mark at Georgia by playing special teams. But the Bulldogs are going to need his help on defense this fall. (UGA photo)

Connor Norman has made his mark at Georgia by playing special teams, but the Bulldogs are going to need his help on defense this fall. (UGA photo)

Note: A version of this story ran in print over the weekend. . . .

ATHENS – When he arrived at Georgia, Connor Norman was just another obscure walkon buried on a roster of 125 players. But that’s not the case anymore.

Norman was one of seven walkons recently awarded grants-in-aid by the Bulldogs’ coaching staff. Not coincidentally, he’s not buried on the depth chart anymore either.

In fact, Norman is among the exclusive group of Georgia players pretty much guaranteed to play in every game. Norman laughed when asked if his new-found scholarship-status had raised his profile around campus.

“No, nothing really has changed,” said Norman, a redshirt sophomore from Duluth. “I have all my same friends and everything’s the same. I got free books [last week] and that was nice. It was weird going in there and just walking out with books.”

Norman – or more accurately, his parents – had been writing checks for books the past two years while he toiled on the Bulldogs’ scout team and special teams. But that won’t be the case this season as the 5-foot-10, 208-pounder figures into Georgia’s plans.

Norman

Norman

Norman is currently second-team free safety for the Bulldogs and is expected to see action on at least three of their special teams units. Attrition and depth problems created the opportunity for Norman to earn such significant role on the team. But it’s Norman’s athletic ability that is keeping him there, according to those who know him best.

“I’m not a bit surprised they gave him a scholarship,” said Bill Ballard, who coached Norman at Peachtree Ridge High School. “I’m surprised he didn’t get one before now. His [measurables] were every bit as good as Thomas Brown’s, and I coached both of them.”

Ballard coached Brown, a former Georgia tailback, at Tucker High School. Ballard is now at White County High.

“Very similar size, similar body build, both of them real strong, consummate weight-room guys,” he said of Norman and Brown. “And Connor is just as fast. I tried like crazy to get Division I schools to recruit him. I couldn’t even get I-AA schools to offer him. They wouldn’t do it.”

Norman finally ended up with scholarship offers from Presbyterian and Gardner-Webb. He took the offer from the Blue Hose and spent one season at the FCS school before deciding to come back home and go to school at UGA.

“I transferred to Georgia on my own; I didn’t talk to anybody,” Norman said.” Part of me didn’t even plan on playing football. I just felt like I didn’t fit in at Presbyterian and wanted something different. I just wanted to come here and go to school. Once I got here I just decided to give the walk-on thing a shot.”

Norman had to sit out the 2010 season as per NCAA transfer rules, so he paid his dues on the Bulldogs’ scout team. He started making plays against the No. 1 offense in practice and fairly quickly caught the eye of Georgia’s coaches.

“You evaluate every player when they first come here and he was a guy who always showed up in the right spot,” Grantham recalled. “His first scrimmage last year, he went with the first group and the second group because we had some injuries. So he literally had to play 80 to 90 plays. He played every one of them. The kid hustles, he’s smart, he knows what to do and he’s dependable.”

By the spring of 2011 Norman was getting snaps as a backup defensive back and earned a spot on special teams.

“Early on Coach Grantham didn’t know his name,” said linebacker Christian Robinson, one of Norman’s good friends. “He used to call him ‘Conrad Newman.’ Slowly Coach Grantham has learned his name and now he’s earned a scholarship so, yeah, I’d say he has some talent.”

Norman played in all 14 games last season and led the Bulldogs in special teams tackles with 14. But his play wasn’t limited only to kicking teams. In fact, because of free safety’s suspension for the first game last season, he played in the defensive backfield against Boise State.

Norman currently listed as the first free safety behind Rambo, who’s availability is in question again this season. Georgia has yet to make an announcement regarding Rambo’s status or how many games he might be out due to suspension. Suffice it to say Norman is expected to play on defense this fall.

“He’s earned it,” Grantham said. “He can run. He’s got some quickness and some strength and some instincts. He’s smart and he knows the system, so he’s usually where he needs to be. Therefore he’s able to make some plays.”

Said Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos: “He’s one of those guys you want to see people write about. He got here the summer of my first year here and he’s done nothing but work and learn and be a positive guy and continue to get better. When he’s had his opportunities to make some plays, he’s made some. He’s put himself in position to where he had a role on this team and obviously we’re excited about him getting a chance to get a scholarship.”

Locking down a grant-in-aid means Norman has achieved one of his personal goals. Now he wants to concentrate on helping the Bulldogs meet their team goals.

“I just want to help the team out anyway I can,” he said. “If that’s me playing on the field a certain number of plays or not doesn’t matter. I honestly came to Georgia just to have a role on the team. Now that I have somewhat of a role, I just want to play it to the best of my ability.”

If Norman does happen to get some meaningful snaps on defense this fall, Ballard said it doesn’t think it means the Bulldogs are in trouble. He believes Norman can get the job done.

“We put Connor on Brice Butler when he was at Norcross, before he went to USC, and he held him to two catches and 12 yards for the game,” Ballard said. “He was biting his ankles, but he shut him down. . . . He’s got the speed. I watched him run a 4.3-sometiung in high school on a timing advice. He’s not like a Rudy or anything like that. He’s a very talented athlete.”

86 comments Add your comment

JoeyHanie

August 20th, 2012
5:59 pm

First! Go Dawgs

JoeyHanie

August 20th, 2012
6:00 pm

Congrats “Conrad”lol

OkieDawg

August 20th, 2012
6:01 pm

Good for him…hard work always pays off.

BILLY JACK

August 20th, 2012
6:05 pm

GREAT STORY AND A TALENTED FOOTBALL PLAYER-BUT EVEN A BETTER PERSON.

Game Changer

August 20th, 2012
6:06 pm

Of the 85 football scholarships available each year, how many have been used on walk ons the last two years?

Augusta dawg

August 20th, 2012
6:07 pm

GATA! DGD. Earned it!

claytondawg

August 20th, 2012
6:10 pm

My words exactly, BILLY JACK. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Frank Lane

August 20th, 2012
6:12 pm

Connor reminds me of Lynn Hughes from the 60’s who went on to All-American and played in the NFL. Smart, always in position.

nobody

August 20th, 2012
6:15 pm

unless you have been a “walk-on” you have no idea of the ability and attitude a kid must show to “earn” a scholarship

Uncle Tom

August 20th, 2012
6:15 pm

I taught this kid in high school at Peachtree Ridge for World History, and guess what? He’s also SMART!

Guys like this EVERY ORGANIZATION wants to have plenty of

August 20th, 2012
6:16 pm

Young man is to be congratulated. He is doing what 90% of all HS kids CANNOT do. He is smart enough academically to attend UGA and he is athletic enough to get a free ride. Additionally, he is a leader.

ANY organization would highly covet a young man like this. He has options in life.
He is also having FUN.
Gooooooooooooooooo Dogs.

Spanky

August 20th, 2012
6:22 pm

Frank, I gotta agree with you on that one…how bout a Jake Scott comparison?

CHDawg

August 20th, 2012
6:23 pm

If he’s really 208, and he can run a 4.4 40, and he is smart and makes plays, maybe he should have been offered out of HS? Congrats Mr. Neuman….uh, Norman. Pretty funny!

I dropped my fried twinkie

August 20th, 2012
6:26 pm

He can’t be like RUDY cause UGA is not anything like a National Power or a Multi-National Championship winning team.

I dropped my fried twinkie

August 20th, 2012
6:29 pm

I hope he has a good time playing ball and does well in school. I was just poking fun at the RUDY thing.

tenn.DAWG

August 20th, 2012
6:42 pm

He’s the type of guy that makes the whole team better, just being on the team.GATA Connor !!!

Greg

August 20th, 2012
6:48 pm

@ AAA1/2, nope and we don’t plan on it. We have a title to win. GATA!

Greg

August 20th, 2012
6:51 pm

Let me get this right…Rambo and Ogletree are likely to be out the first 4 games (although nothing has been confirmed). Commings will only be out the first two games but what if Mitchell locks down every receiver Mizzou has and outshines Commings? Does Commings automatically get his spot back? The coaches have already stated that Mitchell is already the team’s best corner. The loss of Ogletree won’t be a big deal at all because we have so much depth at LB with Herrera, Gilliard, Robinson, Ramik Wilson, etc. The biggest loss is obviously Rambo and we’ll miss his ability vs. Mizzou but I think we’ll be fine.

LeftCoastDawg

August 20th, 2012
6:53 pm

Hey Uncle Tom, are you still teaching at Peachtree Ridge? I have two nephews that transferred there this year.

Greg

August 20th, 2012
6:54 pm

Here is my projected defensive depth chart vs. both Buffalo and Mizzou:

DE: Abry Jones
NG: John Jenkins
DE: Cornelius Washington

OLB: Jarvis Jones
ILB: Mike Gilliard
ILB: Amarlo Herrera
OLB: T.J. Stripling

CB: Branden Smith
FS: Connor Norman/Corey Moore/Josh Harvey Clemons
SS: Shawn Williams
CB: Malcolm Mitchell

LeftCoastDawg

August 20th, 2012
6:55 pm

@ Greg – I believe that 6′5 Freshman will pick up the slack at Safety for Rambo while he’s out. He was recruited as a LB but hasn’t put on enough weight yet…..really fast too. Harvey-Clemons I believe is his name.

Greg

August 20th, 2012
6:56 pm

Here’s the offensive depth chart (in my view):

LT: Kenarious Gates
LG: Dallas Lee
C: David Andrews
RG: Chris Burnette
RT: John Theus

QB: Aaron Murray
HB: Ken Malcome/Richard Samuel/Todd Gurley/Keith Marshall
FB: Merritt Hall
WR: Tavarres King
WR: Marlon Brown
TE: Arthur Lynch

LeftCoastDawg

August 20th, 2012
6:57 pm

@Greg – exactly, except for the fact that Damian Swain will be on the field as a NCB because of the extra receiver(s) lined up by Mizzou.

JB

August 20th, 2012
6:59 pm

WHAT A GREAT STORY. Go Dawgs.

Uncle Tom

August 20th, 2012
7:04 pm

Yeah, I’m still teaching at The Ridge. It has academics as good as any in the southeast if that’s what you want, and the athletics are also top notch if that’s what you want.

Spike 80DF

August 20th, 2012
7:16 pm

sunny, we don’t play USC this year but we do play the lamecocks from columbia.

Greg

August 20th, 2012
7:24 pm

Missouri game doesn’t worry me as much as people think it should. Our defense will handle business. Our offense will be a lot better than people are expecting. Our O-line will be improved from last season even though they aren’t the biggest.

mark

August 20th, 2012
7:30 pm

This was indeed a great story. I hope he has a great season. I am proud of anybody who bring the total package to UGA.

LeftCoastDawg

August 20th, 2012
7:31 pm

@ Uncle Tom – Academics first, athletics second….at least that’s what the path is for my oldest nephew. He’ll be spending this first year getting acclimated to the school and ensuring he can make the grade. Next year he should be able to hit the gridiron. I just realized his little brother won’t be there until next year and he’ll definitely be on the field….more of an natural athlete. I’ll make sure to tell them not to misbehave in History classes :-)

dap01

August 20th, 2012
7:33 pm

AAAA+: Ask your mother about the jail.

Skint

August 20th, 2012
7:36 pm

Great article. However, if we are forced to play walk-ons we are in trouble. Last year against Boys State we chose to play Jeremy Sulek when Ogletree went down. That didn’t turn out so well. I am sure Norman is a good kid and knows where to line up and all, but so did Muschamp and we all remember that. He will be OK against non SEC teams on special teams, but I remember Florida and the Hiney Badger.

Beast from the East

August 20th, 2012
7:52 pm

Good story about what appears to be a hard working young man that has the type of drive it takes to succeed in life. Every team could use a roster full of young men with that mindset.

BG

August 20th, 2012
8:16 pm

Congrats Connor. GO DAWGS!!

Fiasco

August 20th, 2012
8:27 pm

He didnt get any offers in HS because he is white. I wish some of these HS coaches would just call it like it is, and stop the whole, “oh for the life of me i cant understand” if he were a black kid, he would have had a bunch of offers.

Skint

August 20th, 2012
8:36 pm

Fiasco, Thomas Brown was a top rated recruit. It is not because he is white, it is because he is not that good. There are a lot of white guys who get recruited by division1 schools. I doubt seriously this guy runs a 4-4.5.

Hunker down

August 20th, 2012
8:43 pm

Nice story n dang good Dawg!

Jim

August 20th, 2012
8:53 pm

Could very well turn out like Jake Scott or maybe this guy:

Will Muschamp attended the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. He walked on to the Georgia Bulldogs football team and played safety from 1991 to 1994. As an undergraduate, he was initiated into the Kappa Alpha Order (Gamma Chapter) and also earned a spot on the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 1993. He was a defensive team captain his senior season, and played in two bowl games with the Bulldogs. Current Georgia offensive coordinator and former Bulldogs quarterback Mike Bobo, who was Muschamp’s college teammate, described him as “a hard worker. Very physical. Very intense.” Muschamp graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in 1994.

Coach Turtle

August 20th, 2012
9:16 pm

“NCAA transfer rules” he had to sit out 1 year because he transferred from and Div II school to a Div I school? Are you sure about that?

[...] Former walkon DB Connor Norman ‘not like a Rudy’ [...]

Skint

August 20th, 2012
9:26 pm

Jim, Muschamp started in 1994 and we were a fine 6-4-1 team. If he recruits the same kind of players he was, he will not last at UF. Bottom line, there are some walk-ons who are valuable to some extent. Times have changed, especially in the SEC. If you are forced to play walk-ons, chances are you will not be successful.

Mitch Cumstein

August 20th, 2012
9:28 pm

Of course he didn’t get the offer cause he’s a honkey!!!

Here in Augusta, at Aquinas High School is the damndest football player you’ll ever meet, Brendan Douglas, whose brother earned a full ride to play fullback at Auburn from Aquinas his jr. yr. His kid brother has an offer from the bugs and GaSo.Univ. Nuttin from the dogs cause he’s a honkey.

Remember that kid from Stanford, Toby Gerhartd or something like that, he ran people over like he had a 34 on his chest and never got a word from the NFL.

White man’s curse.

SEC_Champion

August 20th, 2012
9:39 pm

Hopefully he will remind us of Kirby Smart when he’s done

Dawg89

August 20th, 2012
9:39 pm

A student-athlete. Interesting. Too bad, all teams aren’t comprised of student athletes.

Chip Towers

August 20th, 2012
9:41 pm

Game Changer: 15 the last two years, eight last year and seven this one.

Mountain Dawg

August 20th, 2012
10:39 pm

Wish the whole team had his mindset.

mole

August 20th, 2012
11:22 pm

Enter your comments here

mole

August 20th, 2012
11:27 pm

Reminds me of Bob Kelly. Walked on from Furman. Tough guy and good leader.

sb

August 21st, 2012
12:30 am

First of all I saw the kid play in High School and coach Ballard did not exaggerate, he is that good of a player.Second of all if any of you really watched a UGA game, I mean watched everything that goes on the whole field not just the ball carrier and who was tackling him you would have seen how good he has been at UGA the times he has gotten to play thus far.I’m guessing the majority of you complaining about playing walkons do not even know his Jersey Number (11) yes the same number as Aaron Murray, you probably just thought that was Murray making those tackles on kick offs and punts.
Now is he as good as Rambo, or Commings, or Ogletree or B. Smith. Probably not, but he’s not chopped liver either. And most of all he has managed to make it through 2+ years of college without getting stoned, arrested or suspended multiple times either. So i pose these questions which of these players are more embarassing to UGA, and which one of these kids would you want your daughter to bring home to meet you?

1776

August 21st, 2012
12:57 am

Connor wasn’t offered out of HS due to the bogus “caste system” that states White players cannot excel at positions like CB, RB, WR, etc. due to “sub-par” athletic ability. That is horse squeeze when you’ve guys like former Arkansas QB Matt Jones (6′6, 240, 40″ vertical & 4.4 speed) and current Seattle Seahawk TE/DE/LB Jameson Konz (6′3, 240, 4.3 40 y/d & 46″ vertical leap). If Connor wasn’t White, he’d have gotten a slew of offers out of HS.

[...] Former walkon DB Connor Norman ‘not like a Rudy’ [...]