American Football Database
American Football Database
Ken Norton Jr.
refer to caption
Norton at USC's pregame "Trojan Walk" in 2008
Seattle Seahawks
Position:Defensive coordinator
Personal information
Born: (1966-09-29) September 29, 1966 (age 54)
Jacksonville, Illinois
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:236 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Los Angeles (CA) Westchester
NFL Draft:1988 / Round: 2 / Pick: 41
Career history
As player:
* Dallas Cowboys ( 1988 1993)
As coach:
* Southern California (2004–2008)
Linebackers coach
  • Southern California (2009)
    Assistant head coach & linebackers coach
  • Seattle Seahawks ( 2010 2014)
    Linebackers coach
  • Oakland Raiders ( 2015 2017)
    Defensive coordinator
  • San Francisco 49ers ( 2018)*
    Assistant head coach
  • Seattle Seahawks ( 2018–present)
    Defensive coordinator
  • Career highlights and awards
    ;As player
    As coach
    Career NFL statistics
    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 in the National Football League (NFL) who is the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. He previously was the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. 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 1988 NFL Draft, and played thirteen seasons for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. He has 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 player in NFL history 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.

    Playing 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 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 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 finished his 13 NFL seasons with 12 sacks and 5 interceptions, which he returned for 127 yards 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. Along with ex-teammate Deion Sanders, Norton won consecutive Super Bowls on different teams. Years later, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long would become the third and fourth players to do so.

    Coaching career


    Coach 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.

    Seattle Seahawks

    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.

    Norton was instrumental in the development of the Seattle Seahawks star linebacker group consisting of All-Pro Bobby Wagner, Pro Bowler K.J. Wright, Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, special teams captain Heath Farwell, veteran Leroy Hill and pass rush specialist Bruce Irvin.

    Oakland Raiders

    On February 6, 2015, he was named the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders also signed Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin reuniting him with his former coach.

    Under Norton’s tutelage linebacker Khalil Mack won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award at the end of the 2016 season.

    He was fired by head coach Jack Del Rio on November 21, 2017, two days after the Raiders suffered a blowout 33 to 8 loss to the New England Patriots and the defense having not intercepted a pass in 11 weeks.

    San Francisco 49ers

    On January 8, 2018, he was hired as the 49ers assistant head coach.[5] He left just 1 week later when the Seahawks hired him as defensive coordinator.[6]

    Seattle Seahawks

    On January 15, 2018, he moved on from the 49ers to become the Seahawks defensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.[6]

    Coaching tree

    NFL head coaches under whom Ken Norton Jr. has served:

    Personal life

    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 three children: Brittney, Sabrina, and Ken III.

    Noteworthy plays

    • In tribute to his father's boxing career, Ken Norton Jr. would strike a boxing stance in the end zone each time he scored a defensive touchdown and throw a punching combination at the goalpost pad.
    • Early in the Second Quarter of Super Bowl XXVII, Norton, on a third-down and one from the one-yard line, with his feet in the end zone, solo tackled Kenneth Davis preventing a touchdown. Consequently, the Bills opted for a fourth-down pass which was intercepted by Thomas Everett. The goal line stand would later be recognized by analysts as the point where the game truly got away from the Bills.
    • On September 5, 1994, during a Monday Night Football contest and the Raiders' opening game of the season at the San Francisco 49ers, Napoleon McCallum's career ended prematurely when 49ers linebacker Ken Norton Jr. twisted him to the ground. McCallum's cleat stuck in the ground, forcing his knee into a horrible dislocation. Norton lay pinned underneath a motionless McCallum for a couple of minutes while trainers attended to McCallum.


    External links

    Template:Super Bowl XLVIII