Jim Norton (safety)
October 20, 1938|
Glendale, California, U.S.
|Died||June 12, 2007
|AFL Draft||1960 / Round 1|
|NFL Draft||1960 / Round 7, (75th), Detroit|
|AFL All-Star||1961, 1962, 1963, 1967|
|Honors||American Football League Champion 1960, 1961|
|Retired #s||Houston Oilers #43|
|1960-1968||AFL Houston Oilers|
James Charles "Jim" Norton (October 20, 1938 – June 12, 2007) was a professional football player, an original member of the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. He played at strong safety and punter for their first nine seasons, 1960 to 1968. Norton was an AFL All-Star for four seasons and holds the league's record for career interceptions. His jersey (#43) was the first of six retired by the Oilers.
Born and raised in southern California, Norton graduated from Fullerton Union High School in 1956 and played college football for head coach Skip Stahley at Idaho, alongside future pros Jerry Kramer, Wayne Walker, and Jim Prestel in the Pacific Coast Conference. Norton played defensive back and tight end, and also punted and returned kicks for the Vandals. Although selected by the Detroit Lions in the 1960 NFL Draft (7th round, 75th overall) and the Dallas Texans in the AFL's inaugural draft 1960, he signed as an original Houston Oiler.
Although he intercepted only one pass in his rookie season in 1960, he went on to become the AFL’s all-time interception leader. In 1961, his first starting season, he snared nine passes and punted with a 40.7 yard average. In a tight defensive duel in the AFL Championship Game, his four booming punts helped Houston defeat the San Diego Chargers, 10-3, claiming their second AFL championship in as many seasons.
While nursing a slim half-game lead in the Eastern Division in Week 12 of the 1962 AFL season, Norton personally tormented Denver Broncos quarterback Frank Tripucka. He stopped three Bronco drives with interceptions as the Oilers stole a 34-17 victory and a berth in their third straight AFL Championship Game. That thriller for the 1962 AFL crown was the league's longest game, a double-overtime contest won by the Dallas Texans, 20-17.
As a defensive back, Norton was a steady tackler with a nose for the football. His play earned him All-AFL honors for 1961, '62, '63, and '67, when he scored the only touchdown of his career, returning an interception 56 yards. His number 43 was the first retired by the Oilers, acknowledging his club-record 45 career interceptions, which he returned for 592 yards and a touchdown, and 519 punts. The Oilers later retired the numbers of Elvin Bethea, Earl Campbell, Mike Munchak, Bruce Matthews, and Warren Moon.
- Manfull, Megan (June 19, 2007). "Original Oiler Jim Norton passes away at 68". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- "1960 Draft". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- "Jim Norton dies; jersey one of six retired by Oilers". ESPN. Associated Press. June 18, 2007. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- Miller, Jeff (2003). Going Long: The Wild Ten-Year Saga of the Renegade American Football League In the Words of Those Who Lived It. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-141849-0.
- Gruver, Ed (1997). The American Football League: A Year-By-Year History, 1960-1969. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-0399-3.
- Idaho Vandals Athletics Hall of Fame profile
- Career statistics and player information from Pro-Football-Reference • Databasefootball.com
- Tennessee Titans – Titans/Oilers Hall of Fame
- Tales from the American Football League – Jim Norton