Getting to the next level

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Brian Norris Jr. figures to make big gains for Indians football after committing to USF

By Sean Arnold

The situation is lining up nicely for Brian Norris Jr.

The Chiefland senior is reunited with a group of seniors and a head coach that went undefeated in junior varsity ball his freshman year, and he’s looking for another special season to go out on before hopefully moving on to play at the college ranks.

On Tuesday, he and his parents took a visit to the University of South Florida, one of several schools showing strong interest at Norris, who, at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, offers an unusual combination of size and speed, and is making the grades in the classroom.

By the end of the day, Norris was verbally commited to USF.

"All I can say is God is Good all the time," Norris said after commiting. "(USF's coaches) have all been down to earth, straight up wth me, and have made me feel at home every time I was on campus."

As a gym rat who never says no to a workout opportunity, Norris has been applying his natural talents.

“Anytime the weight room’s open, you can count on him coming through the door,” Indians head football coach Adam Gore said. “And while he’s in there, he’s getting it done. He’s got all the gifts and makes great grades. He runs fast, he’s big and strong – he’s got a lot going for him.”

Rather than seeing workouts as a necessary evil that the job demands, Norris relishes them. He says he hasn’t missed a workout since his freshman year.

To break up the off-season doldrums, Norris also plays basketball and runs track. But he’s getting anxious for football to start.

“This is the only time of the year I’m not playing a sport,” he said.

The rising senior has kept busy attending football camps, including at USF, where he was asked to return a couple of times by the Bulls’ staff, headed by Charlie Strong.

“I had an open mind about playing college football, so I went (to USF camp) as a defensive player, and was asked to come back as a running back,” Norris said.

Norris is one of the team’s most talented players on both sides of the ball, and figures to see action as a running back and stand-up defensive end. With the Indians figuring to have more depth this upcoming season, a fresh Norris could be a devastating knockout punch in the fourth quarter, against worn-down defenses.

“Give him the ball and let him run down hill,” Gore said.

“Depending on how we feel we match up with teams will determine his workload on offense,” Gore added. “We definitely want him to play both offense and defense. He’s one of our better defenders, but we’ve also got to have him offensively. That’s going to be one of those things that depends on where we are at and what teams are giving us. We’ve got some other talented guys, but we definitely want to get in the ‘I’ and run down hill with Brian.

“He’s faster than you think – he’s a track guy – so we can run the perimeter with him too; we can run a jet motion with Brian.”

Norris says he doesn’t favor playing offense or defense, and he wants to leverage his versatility as a back. He embraces all of it.

“I want to be able to run up the middle or take it outside, where you can’t really guess my game,” he said.

Gore said he’s challenged Norris mentally to meet his full potential as a back. The spring game was a good indication of Norris’ development, as he scored multiple touchdowns and two-point conversions at Wildwood.

“For his senior year, we’re looking for toughness from him, to run the ball hard, run through people, and between him and (fellow senior running back) Tramaine (Brown), be that ‘Thunder and Lightning.’

“When a kid his size gets into the secondary, there’s a lot of yards for him to have. That’s really what we’re trying to preach to him: run through first level, run through second level, give it one cut and then go. Make guys regret trying to tackle him.

“He responded to that well.”

Norris has received the one-cut-and-go memo a few times.

“I always keep that in mind – get that one cut and go up field – because if I don’t I know I’ll hear about it,” Norris said. “(Coach Gore) says no one should stop me if I’m going full speed.”

“We’ve got to get to the point where he punishes people,” Gore says. “Once he gets there mentally, he’s one of the best in the area. Everything else is there.”

Norris is driven to play college football, but his No. 1 priority is his current team.

“I’m not going to let it get in my head and ruin my focus on what we’ve got to do as a team,” he said.

Gore has known Norris and his family a long time, and he’s now seeing a more determined approach from him on the cusp of his senior year. Gore played football with Norris’ father, Brian Norris Sr., who was part of the 1997 state champion Chiefland squad that’s about to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

“I’ve been around Brian a long time, I’ve known his mom and dad,” Gore said. “He’s really maturing to the point of where he knows what he wants and he’s determined to get there. I’ve really seen that take off in the last several months, the last year.”

In addition to USF, Norris was garnering interest from schools like West Florida, Wofford (South Carolina) and Valdosta State. He said he’s considering studying Criminal Justice.

Norris was pulled up to varsity his freshman year after the JV season, and was second on the team in rushing his sophomore year. Chiefland hasn’t had a winning season since 2013, and it’s something Norris wants to rectify before graduating.

“You can tell everybody wants to change it,” he said. “If we keep going the way we’re going, it’s going to change.

“I feel like Coach Gore’s going to have us ready each game. If we lose, it’s not going to be because we’re not prepared.”