Ken Norton Jr.

This article is about Super Bowl Champion American football Linebacker. For his father and the world champion hall of fame boxer, see Ken Norton.
Ken Norton Jr.

refer to caption

Norton at USC's pregame "Trojan Walk" in 2008
Oakland Raiders
Position: Defensive coordinator
Personal information
Date of birth: (1966-09-29) September 29, 1966
Place of birth: Jacksonville, Illinois
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 236 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school: Los Angeles (CA) Westchester
College: UCLA
NFL Draft: 1988 / Round: 2 / Pick: 41
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
As player
As coach
Career NFL statistics
Tackles: 1,130
Sacks: 12.5
Interceptions: 5
Defensive Touchdowns: 2
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Kenneth Howard Norton Jr. (born September 29, 1966) is an American football coach and former player who is currently the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). Norton played college football for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and received All-American honors. He was drafted in the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft, and played thirteen seasons for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. He was previously served as the linebackers coach and the assistant head coach for the University of Southern California , then the linebackers coach for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL.

He is the only NFL player to win a Super Bowl ring in three consecutive years.

Early years

Norton Jr. is a graduate of Westchester High School in California, where he played as a running back averaging 8.8 yards per carry as a senior.

He went on to play at UCLA from 1984 to 1987, where he was converted to linebacker, the position he would play for the remainder of his football career.

Norton was a member of the 1985 conference championship team, and helped the Bruins to four consecutive bowl game wins. He led team in tackles in 1986 with 106 and did it again in 1987 with 125. He ranks sixth in school history with 339 career tackles.

He earned All-American honors in 1987, was a finalist for the Butkus Award and was named the team's defensive MVP.[1]

In 1998 he was inducted in the UCLA Hall of Fame.

Professional career

Dallas Cowboys

Norton was drafted in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He spent most of his rookie year on the injured reserve list with a broken thumb.

In 1989 Norton and Jesse Solomon shared the weakside linebacker position. He played the first and third quarters, Solomon the second and fourth.

In 1990, he became a full-time starter when Solomon held out and was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A knee injury sidelined him for the last two games of the season.

In 1991, he bounced back from knee surgery and was used at strongside linebacker and middle linebacker during that season, eventually settling in at the middle linebacker spot.

In 1992, he blossomed as a player and became the leader of the defense, leading the team in tackles with 120 and helping the Cowboys win their first Super Bowl in the 90's. That year the Cowboys had the number one defense in the league, but no player was voted to the Pro Bowl. He also started doing his trademarked punching of the goal posts or the air, after making good plays. A tribute to his father, the one time boxing heavyweight champion of the world, Ken Norton.

In 1993, he had to play through a torn biceps injury,[2] but still managed to lead the team in tackles with 159, helping the Cowboys win their second straight Super Bowl. He was also selected to his first Pro Bowl. Norton is also notable for his part in ending the career of Napoleon McCallum. In the first game of the 1994 season, Norton, along with Bryant Young, tackled McCallum during a rushing play. While he was being pulled to the ground, McCallum's knee collapsed backwards into an unnatural position, almost at a 90 degree angle. After the play, Norton remained under McCallum while medical staff attended to McCallum.

Norton played in Dallas between 1988 and 1993, assisting the Cowboys to victory in Super Bowl XXVII and Super Bowl XXVIII. Norton scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXVII, helping to seal a Cowboys victory.

In 1994 when a salary cap was instituted in the NFL, the Cowboys organization felt they could find linebackers through the draft, without the need of paying a premium and adversely impacting the salary cap, so they allowed talented and productive players like Ken Norton Jr., Darrin Smith, Dixon Edwards, and Robert Jones to leave via free agency, instead of signing them into long-term contracts.

San Francisco 49ers

During the first year of free agency, he joined the San Francisco 49ers from 1994 to 2000, becoming the first player to win three consecutive Super Bowls (Super Bowl XXIX). Norton was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 1995. Norton was also named to the NFL All-Pro Team following the 1995 season.

Norton finished his 13 NFL seasons with 12 sacks and 5 interceptions, which he returned for 127 yards (116 m) and 2 touchdowns (both in the same game against the St. Louis Rams in 1995). He also recovered 13 fumbles and returned them for 36 yards (33 m). Along with ex-teammate Deion Sanders, Norton won consecutive Super Bowls on different teams.

Coaching career

Ken Norton Jr.

After retiring from the NFL, Norton served as a radio and television commentator and analyst, and coached football at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California.

In 2004, he joined the coaching staff of the USC Trojan football team under Head Coach Pete Carroll. From 2004-2009, he served as the linebacker coach for the Trojans; while at USC he helped recruit and develop NFL-bound linebackers such as NFL Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu, Dallas Sartz, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava, Clay Matthews III, and Rey Maualuga.

On January 7, 2009, Norton was promoted to USC Assistant Head Coach for Defense. A form of recognition of his continuing work with the USC linebacker corps, he has developed three consecutive Rose Bowl MVPs: Brian Cushing (2007), Rey Maualuga (2008) and Kaluka Maiava (2009).[3]

Attending the player evaluations of the by-invitation-only 2009 NFL Scouting Combine were all four of Norton's Trojan senior class linebacker protégés: Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava, Clay Matthews III, and Rey Maualuga.

On January 11, 2010, it was announced that USC linebackers coach Norton would be joining head coach Pete Carroll in Seattle to fill the same role with the Seahawks, reuniting him with his protégé, Seahawks defensive standout Lofa Tatupu.[4]

Norton would also win his fourth Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014, his first as a coach.

On February 6, 2015, he was named the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders.


Norton is the son of Ken Norton, former world champion heavyweight boxer and one of the few to ever beat Muhammad Ali. He and his wife, Angela, have 3 children: Brittney, Sabrina, and Ken III.

Noteworthy plays


  1. Gary Klein, Norton turns down UCLA, will remain at USC, Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2008.
  2. "Norton, Casillas get offers". The Victoria Advocate. March 11, 1994. p. 3B. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  3. Gary Klein, Pete Carroll promotes Rocky Seto to defensive coordinator, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2009, Accessed January 8, 2009.
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