Next Norwood is Emerging

After a transfer caused him to drop under the recruiting radar, Texas receiver Levi Norwood looks to make an impact in 2009.

Changing schools can be difficult on any teenager, let alone an athlete relocating in the middle of his high school career. Such was the case for Levi Norwood of Midway High in Waco, Texas.

The son of Baylor defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and younger brother of former Penn State receiver Jordan Norwood, Levi transferred to Midway last fall. His father, a former defensive backs coach with the Nittany Lions, took the coordinator job with the Bears in December of 2007. Most of the family, including Levi, relocated from State College to Waco last year.

But as tricky as the transition sounds, Norwood insists that is has not been too overwhelming.

“It is hard for anybody to switch schools, but getting into sports down here was pretty easy,” he said. “People accepted me almost right away in basketball and in the little football that I have participated in.”

Due to the move, Norwood (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) missed the 2008 football season, and as a result directed his attention toward basketball. In his junior season, Norwood was a starting guard as the Panthers reach the regional semifinals. Norwood feels that his time away from football only helped him become a better basketball player, but he is still anxious to get back on the field.

“It wasn't horrible (missing football),” Norwood said. “I got to see how good I could be at basketball without the interruption of football season. But I still missed it a lot.”

Considering the time he has missed on the football field, Norwood, a receiver, knows it will not be a simple transition back to the gridiron.

“I have a lot that I need to work on,” he said. “Mostly I need to work on getting back into football shape, which is a lot different than basketball shape.”

Norwood also said he could stand to bulk up a little bit, something Jordan had to work hard on during his career at Penn State. But given his strong athletic bloodlines, it would be unwise to bet against Levi making an immediate impact with the Midway football team.

Jordan, who ranks fourth on Penn State's all-time receptions lists, is now with the Cleveland Browns. Oldest brother Gabe helped lead the George Mason basketball team to the 2006 Final Four and is now playing professionally overseas. Brian was a four-year letterman at Hawaii before embarking on a coaching career. Levi's uncle, Damien Hardy, was a standout volleyball player at Hawaii.

When Levi does return to the football field, he will be a welcome addition to a Midway roster that already boasts Scout.com five-star safety Ahmad Dixon. Dixon, the fourth-rated safety for the Class of 2010 by Scout, is a close friend of Levi's and has drawn attention recently by de-committing from Texas and issuing a verbal to play for Norwood's father at Baylor.

While Levi is well aware of his friend's commitment, he is not letting it impact his own choice of where to play at the next level.

“That is his decision and it does not affect me too much,” Norwood said. “I know that it is my choice to go where I feel is best for me.”

Levi also insists that despite his father's position at Baylor, Brian has not tried to push his son into a decision.

“We have talked about it a little,” Norwood said of his father. “But he knows that it is up to me, so most of the time he is letting me do everything on my own.”

One would think that relocating to a different school would diminish an athlete's opportunities in regard to recruiting. And while sitting out the 2008 season was definitely a negative in that regard — he currently only rates one star from Scout.com because nobody has seen him play — Norwood feels he'll have every chance to prove himself this year.

“I think the move will definitely help me out,” he said. “Texas is best known for football — a lot more people are looking for talent here — so this way it should be easier for me to get my name out there.”

Norwood said that he has received one scholarship offer, but declined to mention which school. However, he has caught the interest of Penn State, Air Force, Texas A&M, Kansas State and, of course, Baylor for football.

He has also received attention from Wichita State and Fordham for basketball.

Given his background, Penn State is obviously an intriguing option for Norwood. He has been attending Nittany Lions games since he was a little kid, and seeing the way his older brother succeeded, it is safe to say the program holds a special place in his heart.

“(Jordan's legacy) will definitely have a bearing on my decision,” he said. “He is my older brother; it has to have some kind of effect. Just being around the program for as long as I have, it is tough not to be affected by it.”

Norwood has been in frequent contact with the Penn State staff, at least as much is allowed under NCAA rules. In fact, at the time of this writing, he was back in Happy Valley, spending a few days working a basketball camp at his former school, State High, and then participating in Penn State's senior-only camp.

While he does not hold a written offer from the Nittany Lions, the two sides have had serious talks about Levi possibly following the path Jordan took to PSU. Jordan Norwood signed with Penn State in February of 2004 but waited until January of 2005 to enroll full time. By “grayshirting,” he was able to fill out a bit physically and delay the start of his eligibility clock.

“If I could, I would probably consider grayshirting like Jordan did,” Levi said.

Though slight of build, Levi is already an inch or two taller than Jordan is now and weighs about the same. Gabe is 6-5, so there is no telling how much more Levi may grow.

Penn State recruiting coordinator and receivers coach Mike McQueary has been on the point of Norwood's recruitment. Norwood said there is a level of comfort there because he has known McQueary since the family moved to State College when Levi was in fourth grade.

Yet while many signs may suggest Norwood will land back in Happy Valley, he is anxious to see what happens on the recruiting front once he is able to get back on the field this fall.

“I want to explore my options,” Norwood said. “I want to (go to) a big school and I want a chance to play, as well as get a good education.”

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