ATHENS – Connor Norman gave up his scholarship at Presbyterian to achieve a dream.
Growing up in Duluth, he loved playing football and pulled for the Georgia Bulldogs.
His two favorite interests were a perfect match.
A standout at Peachtree Ridge High, Norman was fast and made plays on defense. He helped the team win three straight region championships, a state title and was named first-team All-Gwinnett County in 2008. But he was passed over by Georgia and other major colleges due to his size (now 5-foot-10, 208 pounds).
He opted to go to Presbyterian College, in Clinton, S.C., on a full scholarship.
As a freshman Norman started five games -- a quick start to what looked like a promising career. Despite being a main contributor still with upside, he wanted to chase his ultimate goal and prove he could compete at the highest level. So he headed to Georgia in 2010 without the guarantee of a scholarship and he got to work.
“I remember last spring he made a bunch of big plays,” coach Mark Richt said. “He’s a tough kid.”
Norman made a few tackles and an interception in the G-Day spring game last year, earning the Most Outstanding Walk-on Award for his efforts in offseason drills.
Up until that time he was known in the media circle as "Bizarro Aaron Murray" because he wore No. 11 like the starting quarterback.
After his contributions in 2011, Norman earned his own name back.
He played in all 14 games last season, making 13 tackles – including four against New Mexico State. Most of his contributions came on special teams, but Norman also saw time at safety.
The addition of Norman and his experience from last season may pay off in 2012. Five defensive backs have seen trouble this offseason. Two, Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders, were dismissed. Three others, Sanders Commings, Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo, are facing suspensions to start the season.
That leaves the secondary short on depth. Due to his ability to play both corner and safety, Norman could be in line for playing time this season.
“Coach (Todd) Grantham always tells me I have to know everything,” Norman said.
Norman knows so much about the Georgia defense that Rambo referred to him as a defensive coordinator earlier this spring.
“This is my second spring at Georgia so the comfort factor is there now where I’m not nervous,” Norman said. “I’m not just here for the first time. I know all the guys on the team. I’m more comfortable with the defense. I don’t know if I’m hitting my stride, but I’m more comfortable than say last year.”
Sophomore Corey Moore is the favorite to start in Rambo’s place at safety opposite Shawn Williams. If that is the case, Norman is next in line behind both those players – a depth chart fact that Richt feels comfortable with.
“We have faith in Connor,” Richt said. “It starts with the ability to understand what we’re doing. If anybody gets in there they better know what we’re doing, so he really did a good job of that last season. He proved to us that he could learn the system and do a good job at that. He’s made plays for us.”
The dream has been realized. Norman made the team, has shown he can compete and now has the chance to earn meaningful playing time. Could it be time for him to receive a scholarship?
“I didn’t come here to Georgia to earn a scholarship,” he said. “I’m not saying that’s not a goal, but the opportunity I have right now – I’m just really happy with that. I’m not going to be disappointed with or without a scholarship. Obviously that’s a goal and that would be something great for my parents because I did leave a scholarship at Presbyterian, but it’s not something that I’m getting my hopes up for. It is every walk-ons hope to get a scholarship though.”