MLB Norton Expects To Lose 'Shirt On Loaded D

Linebacker Jared Norton, a two-time Texas 5A all-state selection, is almost certain that he will be part of the Longhorns' defensive rotation as a true freshman this fall. But, first, Norton must traverse one of the most arduous tasks of his senior year at Rowlett High.

Don't everybody laugh at once, but Norton was grimacing about the rigors of making a pillow "for a sewing class" when Inside Texas contacted him this week.

"I'm learning how to sew in a straight line," he said. "It's rough."

So, how does a supremely confident, all-state linebacker end up in Sewing 101? The course description listed the section simply as an 'Apparel' class, Norton said, so the nuances of pillow-making wasn't exactly what he expected. Admittedly, "the girls are nice" but "I'm the only dude in the class." The course, however, offers practical application in the short-term: Norton will be fully aware of his "signature color" when it's time pick his threads for his Senior Prom next month.

"We're learning what fabric best suits your skin," he explained. "If you're a winter (persona), summer, or whatever, you learn what colors go best with your appearance."

This much we know: Norton will be wearing the Burnt Orange this fall. And, apparently, a redshirt will not be part of his wardrobe. Even though Mack Brown's Longhorns will enjoy more depth at linebacker than any time during his nine-year tenure, coaches have not backed off from a previous vow that Norton will be part of the rotation if he reports in playing shape during August camp, the senior said.

"They told me that the last time I was down there (April 1)," Norton said. "I know they're not telling everybody that because I've talked to some of my friends that are going (to Texas). They said the coaches wanted them to redshirt, especially the wide receivers. Coach Brown said it would be nearly impossible for me not to play this fall. He said they (coaches) had a meeting, and they said that if I come down in shape, I'll play."

Norton plans to participate in voluntary summer workouts, starting in June. Until then, he will continue with his self-paced daily weight-training schedule. He also plans to add an intensive running regimen, and possibly a personal trainer, to his workouts. (Note: several of Texas' Dallas-area recruits reported they had been working with personal trainers when Inside Texas visited them in January.)

"I've only been through one off-season (strength program) during my whole career in high school. My goal is, before I get to Texas, to get as strong as I can. If you asked me, I'd say that (strength) was one of my weaknesses. I'm real strong on the field, but when it comes to the weight room, well, you know..."

Indeed, Rowlett head coach Kiff Hardin concurred that "strength" is Norton's biggest area for potential improvement when he spoke with Inside Texas earlier this spring but added that the prep star's work ethic "elevated" after he gave his verbal to Texas last June.

"I really haven't maxed out yet," Norton said. "I'm saving the maxing out until the end. I don't want to know until the end of high school. My last bench was in the 275-295 range and I'm trying to get it up. "

He lists his vitals at 6-3, 236-pounds and has been timed at 4.55.

"Coach (Jeff) Mad Dog (Madden) said I would probably be in the mid-240s next year."

Recruiting services have projected Norton at MLB but, like all other Longhorn 'backers, Norton will get a look at all three spots.

"They (coaches) told me I was projected at all three linebacker spots," he said. "They told me that, at the beginning of the season, they'll be cross-training everybody. But they told me I could play either inside of outside."

Norton spent his time patrolling the middle at Rowlett where he totaled 326 tackles, 18 sacks, 52 TFL and six forced fumbles during his final two seasons. He started his career at cornerback before moving to outside linebacker

"We were in a 4-2-5 a lot and I played strongside (in that formation). They also had a scheme where I was the only linebacker in the middle. It was like a 4-1-6. It was a weird scheme. But when we ran a normal 4-3, I was in the middle."

His preference is for MLB just because he wants a piece of every play.

"When I played on the outside, a lot of times teams tried to run away from me so I couldn't make a lot of tackles coming from the other side."

His 195 tackles last season broke the Garland ISD record as he helped lead Rowlett to its first-ever playoff appearance and victory in 2005.

"I had 195 tackles last year and I should have had more than that," he said. "They usually took me out after the half."

Norton is in contact with Brown, either on the phone or via email, at least every three weeks, he said. He also speaks with WR coach Bobby Kennedy (who recruits his area). And he'll soon join a loaded defense that is shaping up as the program's stoutest since the 1983 bunch almost single-handedly posted an undefeated regular season.

And that ain't pillow talk.

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