Jim Norton Defensive Back Houston Oilers 1960 - 1968 9 Seasons 125 Games Played 45 Interceptions 625 Total Yards 1 Touchdown 4 All Star Games
James Charles Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in the 1960 NFL Draft. He was also drafted as a territorial pick in the inaugural season of the American Football League by the Dallas Texans. He opted to sign with the Houston Oilers instead. While attending the University of Idaho, Norton was of the nation’s top defensive backs in 1958. His 9 interceptions that season were the most in the nation, and his 217 interception return yards during that time were a school record that lasted nearly 50 years. He snagged one interception and returned it 99 yards in for a touchdown against Utah State in 1958, which stood as a school record until 1997. Norton also punted, handled the return duties, and played Tight End for the Vandals. He led the team in receiving in 1958 and 1959. While at Idaho, NFL Greats like Green Bay's Jerry Kramer and Detroit's Wayne Walker played with Norton, as did NFL Defensive Tackle Jim Prestel. Jim Norton is a member of the Idaho Sports Hall Of Fame.
Norton first played Cornerback with the Oilers. Playing as a reserve, he managed one interception, the lowest season total of his career, as the Oilers would go on to win the first AFL Championship. Norton was moved to Strong Safety the following year, and was named a starter. He responded with a career high 9 interceptions for a career best 150 yards. He also assumed the punting duties, and averaged 40.7 yards per punt on 48 attempts. The Oilers wound up winning the 1961 AFL Championship as well. His punting in that game was an integral reason for Houston's win in a low scoring affair dictated by field position. Norton was named to his first AFL All Star Team that year. In 1962, Jim swiped 8 more passes, and punted the ball 56 times for a 41 yard average. Three interceptions came in a crucial late season win over Denver, enabling the Oilers to get into the playoffs. The Oilers made it to the 1962 AFL Championship Game, a double overtime loss that was the longest game in AFL history. Norton again was named to the AFL All Star Team. In 1963, Norton was again named to the AFL All Star Team, as he stole 6 balls and has a 43 yard punting average on 65 attempts. He even caught a 15 yard pass. Jim punted the ball a career long 79 yards in 1964. He averaged 41.2yards on 55 attempts, and intercepted the ball twice. In 1965, Norton led the AFL with 85 punts for 3,711 yards. He averaged 43.7 yards per punt. All were career highs for Jim. He also had 7 interceptions that season as well. Jim had 4 picks in 1966, gaining 125 yards. He also averaged 42.1 yards per punt on 69 attempts. Norton made his last AFL All Star Team in 1967, as he had 6 interceptions and averaged 42.6 yards per punt on 71 attempts. He also scored the only touchdown of his career, which came off of an interception. 1968 was Jim's last season. He punted 73 times for a 41.2 yards per punt average. He intercepted the ball twice, and caught a pass for 20 yards. He retired after that season.
Jim Norton's 45 interceptions are the most in AFL history. It is also the most in Oilers/ Titans franchise history. His 592 interception return yards are the second most in the franchises history behind Hall of Famer Ken Houston. His 519 punts were the most in franchise history until 2004, when Craig Hentrich passed him. He ranks third in AFL history in punts as well, and finished his career with an average of 42.1 yards per punt. Jim never missed one game in his entire career, even once after suffering a major concussion. What makes this feat even more amazing is the fact Norton never wore any hip or thigh pads. He averaged over an interception every 3 games he played in his career, an amazing rate. Jim Norton's number 43 was the first jersey ever retired in Oilers/ Titans history.
Jim Norton was nicknamed "The Blade", due to his physique. His team mates also called him "tough as nails," "half-psycho," "crazy," and "masochistic". He was known for his fearless play, and for having a nose for the ball. He seemed to be in on virtually every defensive play the Oilers made throughout his career. He had at least an interception in every year of his career. He was one of the big reasons for the Oilers dominance in the early days of the AFL. My only thought as to why he is not in Canton yet is because he chose the AFL over the NFL. As I have stated many times in this series, Canton is suppose to house the PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL Hall Of Fame. Not JUST the NFL! The ONLY player inducted into Canton who spent his entire career just in the AFL is Buffalo Bills Offensive Guard Billy Shaw, and he was forced to wear a jacket emblazoned with the NFL logo at his induction ceremony. The disrespect of the AFL CERTAINLY continues to this day. Perhaps it is the spite of the old guard who were forced to merge with the AFL because of the success the AFL was having? When you go down the list of all the amazing PRO football players from the AFL not yet inducted into Canton, this theory holds credence. Players like Johnny Robinson, Ed Budde, Walt Sweeney, Gino Cappalletti, and many more. It is truly a disgusting happening still occurring today. The fact that the AFL Interception King is not in Canton shows a distasteful disrespect that should have corrected decades ago. Norton died in 2007, so he went to his grave witnessing this criminal act by the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE "voters". Jim Norton certainly belongs in Canton.
Notable Players Drafted In 1960 * Denotes Hall of Fame Member
1. Billy Cannon, RB, LA Rams 3. Johnny Robinson, DB, Detroit 8. Jim Houston, LB, Cleveland 10. Ron Mix, OT, Baltimore * 13. Harold Olson, T, Saint Louis Cardinals 17. Bob Jeter, DB, Green Bay 20. Maxie Baughan, LB, Philadelphia 23. Don Floyd, DE, Baltimore Colts 24. Marvin Terrell, G, Baltimore Colts 32. Don Meredith, QB, Chicago 35. Rod Breedlove, LB, San Francisco 37. Willie West, DB, St. Louis 40. Ted Dean, FB, Philadelphia 41. Johnny Brewer, TE, Cleveland 42. Roger Brown, DT, Detroit 44. Jim Marshall, DT, Cleveland 48. Vince Promuto, G, Washington 55. Abner Haynes, RB, Pittsburgh 56. Don Norton, WR, Philadephia 59. Len Rohde, T, San Francisco 63. Glen Coqdill, WR, Detroit 69. Bob Khayat, G, Cleveland 72. George Blair, DB, NY Giants 74. Larry Wilson, S, St. Louis Cardinals * 86. Carroll Dale, WR, LA Rams 88. Bill Mathis, FB, San Francisco 105. Chris Burford, WR, Cleveland 106. Don Perkins, FB, Baltimore 109. Charley Johnson, QB, St. Louis Cardinals 110. Curtis McClinton, RB, LA Rams 111. Grady Alderman, T, Detroit 118. Mel Branch, DE, San Francisco 119. Bobby Boyd, DB, Baltimore 157. Bob DeMarco, C, Saint Louis 161. Jon Gilliam, C, Green Bay 162. Brady Keys, DB, Pittsburgh 178. Larry Grantham, LB, Baltimore 181. Jim Hunt, DT, Saint Louis 203. Goose Gonsoulin, DB, San Francisco 229. Tom Day, DE, St. Louis
Notable 1960 AFL Allocation Picks
Jim Otto, C, Minneapolis/ Oakland Raiders * Wayne Hawkins, G, Denver Dean Look, WB, Denver (Noted NFL Referee, and MLB Player) Bill Mathis, RB, NY Titans/ Jets Pat Dye, T, Boston Patriots (College Football Hall of Fame Coach) Billy Brewer, QB, Boston (Ole Miss Legend as Player, then Coach) Chuck McMurtry, DT, Buffalo Ray Jauch, RB, Buffalo (Noted CFL, USFL, and Arena League Coach) Ron Burton, RB, Boston Jim Walden, QB, Denver (Noted College Football Coach) Jacky Lee, QB, Houston Paul Maguire, LB/ P, LA Chargers ( Noted Football Commentater ) Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel, LB, LA Chargers ( WWE Hall of Fame) Bob Talamini, G, Houston Curt Merz, C, NY Titans