Josh Norman wants to clarify something.
The Redskins star cornerback has created a controversial reputation – fair or not – for his demeanor on the field, stemming from his altercations with Odell Beckham Jr. while he was a member of the Carolina Panthers. It’s a stigma he has had difficulty shedding despite his relatively professional persona in the years since.
“[They say], ‘He’s on the field, he’s playing football, he’s always in it with someone,’” Norman said. “But if you pull back layers, you really don’t know me, you really don’t.”
Addressing the media on Thursday for the first time since the end of last season, Norman proceeded to highlight the numerous trips and charitable endeavors he's taken part in over the last several months, hoping to highlight a number of worthy causes. And maybe, in the process, reaffirm that he’s more than just a football player.
“A lot of people see me as a controversial guy,” Norman said. “And the thing is once you see all the stuff that I do, that I’m posting, that I put up, that I go out and I serve others, that is who I really am. I can’t try to hide or try to run from that…I’m a server like I said. I love serving others and this offseason is going to be really fun for us.”
Here’s a rundown of what Norman has done, and plans to do, this offseason.
In March, Norman and Saints linebacker Demario Davis visited Flint to learn more about how the water crisis there continues.
“It was definitely much needed because gosh, if you would just go over there and see the things that’s been going on with the water and lead and how it affects your brain, how it affects kids in that area, it’s a big thing,” Norman said. “So we wanted to check that out.”
Norman said he was interested in visiting Flint because of the city’s high poverty level, hoping his platform could bring more awareness to the issue.
“It’s been neglected and I’m not from there. And I have no relationship to,” Norman said. “But I see it needs help so why not? I’m in a position where I can and I do. I think that’s the difference between people. Whether you can do something about it or not, some don’t, others do. And I’m one of those people that’s others.”
Norman returned to D.C. to meet with Afghanistan’s Minister of Education. The cornerback plans to visit Afghanistan next month.
“That will be coming up,” he said.
U.S. and Mexico Border
Norman then went to the Brownsville & Matamoros Bridge, which goes across the U.S. and Mexico border. He posted numerous stories on Instagram of his day there, learning about how the proposed wall will impact the land and immigrants looking for sanctuary.
“I’ve been over there trying to help the kids and everybody out there,” Norman said. “If you just see how they [are] living – they want freedom and they’re doing it the right way. Some people are not and those are the ones that you have to be concerned about, which I understand. But the ones who are, let’s cut them a break. The habits, where they’re living in, we should be of service to them. They came trying to get away from something. A lot of people, we have the common decency, we have the most necessary necessities like water, a bed, food. We go to sleep at night, we wake up put on our shoes and go to work. Some people they don’t have that, at all. They don’t even have a cot to sleep on. So just be mindful of that and understand that there’s a lot of people out there that are worse off than us.”
Before returning for mandatory minicamp, Norman sought out some aerial thrills and had an exciting day flying with the Blue Angels. The cornerback put on a brave face as he sped into zero gravity and purposefully didn’t eat in order to keep the windshield clean, so to speak.
“I’m just like I’m not going to throw up today,” Norman said. “And then I got in there, went up. I went to 7.3 G’s [gravitational force] and that was just crazy. And then I went through the last part and I was fine. I was really fine. But the 40th minute or something in, we went G6 and he started turning in the air. He went all the up into the—I thought he was about to go up into the atmosphere and my neck started getting tight, my hands started to grip and I couldn’t tell him to stop. We got to go through it, whatever it is. And I tell you, he said, ‘You okay with me?’ and at first I said something and he was like, ‘You sure?’ And I was like slowly losing consciousness, my hands started to go and then I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ Next thing I know, I was asleep. Like two, three seconds he started talking, he was like, ‘You okay back there buddy?’ I was like ‘I’m fine.’ I couldn’t say nothing. And he brought it back down and I was just like dammit. He knew something. So it was just a fun experience overall.
“All those G’s you’re taking on your body and moving at the speed of sound and all that stuff and trying to be a fighter pilot, it’s nothing like it,” he added. “Much respect to them and what they do. I said to myself that I wanted to be one of the fighter pilots growing up but my route was different. But with him [pilot], I truly respect and admire what those guys do. He thought I was tough for a while but the guy who was riding, he was like, ‘So, what do you think?’ And I was like, ‘It was great! It was great!’ And he goes, ‘Are you sure?’ And then he [reporter] walked off and he] started laughing.”
Norman said that he plans to open a new recreation center in his hometown of Greenwood, S.C., in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club later this month. Then he has a few other trips on the fun side of things before he heads to Richmond, Va., for training camp.
“You have to give your mind a break, you really do,” Norman said. “You have to give it a break and do the things you like to do, even if it’s something you’ve never done before. Put yourself in different elements, I think that’s where you grow. This July will be very fun I will say that. I’m going to go somewhere and it’s going to be wild. You’ll find out I’m sure. It’ll be GoPro worthy. It’s a fun thing. It’s the last one on my list.”