One of a walk-on’s biggest thrills is to earn a scholarship.
UGA Sports Communications
Georgia's Connor Norman celebrates after a play during a game against Mississippi State on Oct. 1 at Sanford Stadium.
Redshirt sophomore walk-on Connor Norman wants to take advantage of a chance to impress coaches during preseason drills to hopefully pick up a full ride through school.
“I love it,” Norman said. “It’s always the goal to play as much as you can. It’s awesome to have the opportunity and to get the opportunity to play right now. I don’t want to show anybody up. But to get a scholarship, that’s a goal. That’s right up there with playing.”
Norman was a standout on special teams last year. So far this preseason he has moved into competition for snaps at safety, especially since starter Bacarri Rambo might be suspended for the first part of the season.
“Connor is pretty good, he knows everything,” Georgia cornerback Branden Smith said. “He’s making plays. He can play at a lot of different positions, and that’s pretty good with this defense. You can start at one position, but you can play at another position if somebody goes down.”
Norman said he is working out with the second-team defense now, in addition to his special teams duties. But Norman also said that his status as a walk-on competing with scholarship players for snaps doesn’t factor into his motivation.
“I”m not out there playing with a chip on my shoulder at all,” Norman said. “I’m just trying to honestly get on the field and be in the best position to play. That’s the ultimate goal, to play.”
Norman made a name for himself last year playing special teams. He made 13 total tackles, mostly on kick coverage, as Georgia went 10-4 and won the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division.
“I love special teams. It’s just fun, man,” Norman said. “You get to go out there and go hard 100 percent for a play and try to make something happen. It’s just fun. It’s tough on your body. But it’s worth it. I’ve just got a couple of more years of this then I can heal up.”
He was named the team’s Outstanding Defensive Walk-On and Most Improved Special Teams Player during spring drills. Because safety brings coverage-calling duties, Norman has to know his job plus everybody else’s in the secondary.
“You’ve got to make sure you learn the playbook, so you can be in the best position you can be in, even before the play,” Norman said. “You’ve got to know everything well enough to be in position to make a play even before the ball is snapped. I’ve worked really hard this year on knowing what the guys around me are supposed to be doing at safety and corner. If I know where they’re supposed to be, it helps me know where I’m supposed to be.”
Norman’s grasp of the playbook has impressed starting safety Shawn Williams. Last year, Williams had to learn almost the entire defensive playbook as he bounced from safety to cornerback and even to linebacker.
“He knows his stuff,” Williams said. “Connor will talk a little bit, but he’s mostly on a serious note. He understands that the more valuable you are, the more you know out there, the more you can contribute. I’m glad to have him on my team.”
Norman made five tackles and intercepted a pass in the spring G-Day game. Norman’s background as a special teams enforcer gives him a knack for making big hits, which has impressed Smith.
“He’s kind of laid-back and quiet,” Smith said. “But when he makes a play, you’lll really see the excitement come out of him. He’s a good player and a good person and I definitely like him as one of my teammates. He doesn’t talk too much, but he’ll talk a little out there on the field when he makes a play. He can get excited.”