Pettis Norman

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Pettis Norman
No. 84, 88
Position: Tight end / Split end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1939-01-04) January 4, 1939 (age 78)
Place of birth: Lincolnton, Georgia
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 222 lb (101 kg)
Career information
High school: West Charlotte (NC)
College: Johnson C. Smith
AFL draft: 1962 / Round: 16 / Pick: 123
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
  • 2x All-CIAA selection (1960, 1961)
Career NFL statistics
Games: 162
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Pettis Burch Norman (born January 4, 1939) is a former professional American football tight end in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys and the San Diego Chargers. He played college football for Johnson C. Smith University.

Early years[edit]

Norman attended West Charlotte High School where he made the team until his junior season and became a starter in his final year. He was going to enlist in the Air Force until he received a football scholarship from Johnson C. Smith University by then coach Eddie McGirt, without ever having seen him play.

He was named the starter and team MVP at split end as a freshman.[1] He would eventually become a two-time All-CIAA selection. He also lettered in track and field.

The university's annual award given to the school's most outstanding student-athlete is named after him.[2] In 1977, he was inducted into the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Norman was drafted by the Dallas Texans in the 16th round (123rd overall) of the 1962 AFL Draft, but he wasn't selected in the NFL Draft, after dropping because the Texans spread rumors that they had already signed him to a contract. This situation influenced him to choose instead to play for the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.

He was initially used as a split end and started 6 games in 1963, before being moved to tight end because he excelled in blocking. The next year he became a full-time starter and manned the Cowboys tight end position for nearly a decade, becoming part of the franchise's legacy of great tight ends that included: Jim Doran, Dick Bielski, Lee Folkins, Mike Ditka, Billy Joe Dupree, Jackie Smith, Doug Cosbie, Jay Novacek and Jason Witten.

When Ditka joined the Cowboys in 1969 after having been a 4 time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Norman remained the starter, but split playing time with Ditka to provide great blocking and leadership along the offensive line. He also started Super Bowl V, which was a loss to the Baltimore Colts.

The sports announcer Jack Buck during his two-year stint covering the Cowboys, famously referred to him on the air as Norman Pettis. Prompting Blackie Sherrod a sportswriter in Dallas, to write: "Dallas fans are tired of Pettis Norman constantly being referred to as Norman Pettis by broadcaster Buck Jack".

After trading the troubled Lance Rentzel, the Cowboys replaced him with future hall of famer Lance Alworth and Norman was sent to the San Diego Chargers as part of the "Bambi trade" in May 1971, that also involved Ron East and Tony Liscio.[3]

San Diego Chargers[edit]

In his first season with the San Diego Chargers, he was named the starter at tight end and had a career high 27 catches for 358 yards. He played with the Chargers until he retired after the 1973 season because of a degenerative knee condition, having played 12 years and 162 games, receiving 183 passes for 2,492 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Personal life[edit]

Norman was active in changing the segregationist climate within the Cowboys and later the city of Dallas, helping organized civil rights marches, influencing the changing of the team's roommate assignments and breaking social barriers.[4] He also became a successful businessman in different ventures (fast food franchises, real state, transportation, convenience stores, etc.).[5]

He sued the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers, claiming medical negligence in the handling of his injured knee.[6][7]

December 2, 2014 Dallas Police Department reported Sharneen Norman, who also went by "Shawn," died from a gunshot wound. She was one of three of Norman's children.[8]