Jim Norton: The Dual Defensive Threat

By DILLON HOLLOWAY

Some football players probably could plug their talents into any era of football and still find success.

Jim Norton could likely do that at two positions.

Even retiring over 40 years ago, Norton still holds the Oilers’ franchise record for interceptions in a career with 45, and his franchise record of 519 career punts stood until 2004.

Born in Los Angeles, Norton was a three-sport athlete at Fullerton Union High School.

He played football for four seasons at the University of Idaho before he was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1960 with the 75th pick in the seventh round.

On the next-to-last round of training camp cuts, the Lions released Norton, but the Oilers swiftly signed him after he performed well in their camp.

Playing strong safety and punter, Norton became a stalwart for the Oilers over nine seasons, developing a reputation as a ball-hawking, hard-hitting safety and a thunder-footed punter.

In his rookie campaign of 1961, Norton picked off nine passes and punted his way to a 40.7-yard average.

Norton elevates to make a play against the Boston Patriots in a game at Jeppesen Stadium.

During a tight defensive duel in the 1961 AFL championship game, his four booming punts helped Houston defeat the San Diego Chargers 10-3 for their second AFL championship in as many seasons.

1962 was also a stellar year for Norton, as he earned a trip to the AFL Pro Bowl and helped lead the Oilers back to their third-straight title game.

Regarded by many as one of the best pro football games ever, the Oilers lost that tilt in double overtime to the Dallas Texans in what was at the time the longest pro football game.

“Jim was one of the great original Oilers and a major factor in the early success of our franchise,” said Oilers owner Bud Adams.

“He was well-respected as a player and as a person.”

Norton stamped his mark on the Oiler franchise as a two-time AFL champion, a three-time AFL All-Star, a three-time member of the All-AFL team, a member of the Oilers/Titans Ring of Honor, and a retired jersey honoree (Norton’s No. 43 is one of six jersey numbers retired by the franchise, a group that includes Elvin Bethea, Earl Campbell, Mike Munchak, Bruce Matthews, and Warren Moon).

Dillon Holloway is a native Mississippian currently residing in central Oklahoma. He is a rabid football fan and a historian of the sport. He is a husband, a military officer, volunteer teacher and football coach, and emerging guest speaker. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in English and a minor in aerospace studies. He played football from pee-wee through high school, winning the 2A Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) state championship and was named first-team all-district guard in 2011. Since his first football practice, he has always made the sport a part of his life in some fashion, and writing for Miss Ya Blue! allows him to continue to do so.

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