Josh Norman is on the phone a few nights before he’s set to make his NFL debut with the Carolina Panthers, and the former Coastal Carolina standout says a few things have changed with him since he starred for the Chanticleers. Even, perhaps, since he returned to Brooks Stadium last Saturday to be honored before the Chants’ season-opener.
“I have basically changed my whole outlook on a lot of things, and I think you’re going to see a new person out there on the field on Sunday,” he says.
He won’t provide any hints. Asked if he got a haircut to trim his familiar long locks, he says he can’t say.
“You’ll just have to see,” he says. “I don’t think anybody will recognize me until they look and see my jersey and my name on there. I’ve made a couple drastic changes.”
One thing certainly hasn’t changed with Norman, though. The playmaking cornerback is as confident as ever as he prepares to debut with the Panthers this Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Asked what goals he’s set for the season, he doesn’t hesitate to rattle off most every major accomplishment and award he can think of while looking ahead to his rookie season.
He says he wants to help the Panthers get to the Super Bowl, and individually he wants to make the Pro Bowl, earn defensive rookie of the year honors (along with defensive player of the year), become a team captain and lead the league in interceptions. Needless to say, Norman has never been short on confidence -- not when he started out under the radar at Coastal Carolina and not now as a rookie fifth-round draft pick.
“I have lofty, lofty, lofty goals,” Norman said. “... They’re lofty goals, but I never want to sell myself short. Shoot for the moon and you might catch yourself amongst the stars.”
Norman was a star for the Chants the last few seasons while ranking second in Big South Conference history with 13 interceptions and setting the league record with 35 career pass break-ups. Only the third Coastal player to ever be selected in the NFL Draft, he was disappointed to fall to the fifth round, but he nonetheless made his mark in preseason camp with the Panthers and is expected to have a significant role on the Carolina defense.
Last week on his return to Brooks Stadium, Norman said he would be used on second and third downs and in obvious deep passing situations. Asked this week what to expect Sunday, he again played coy.
“Check out the first series,” he says.
That’ll be a moment he’s been dreaming of for quite some time, and a moment for which he says he’s more than ready.
“It’s not so much nerves. It’s not so much of being scared. It’s anticipating what’s about to come,” he said of his feelings leading up to the game. “It’s just getting out there, that next stop. You don’t know how it’s going to be, but you know it’s coming and [you’re] just bracing yourself for what’s about to come and what’s about to happen. Once I can get past that [moment], I think I’ll be right back at home.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.