Rowlett High School
NR: 28 SR: 13 Star Rating: ****
An Inside Texas conversation with Rowlett head coach Kiff Hardin on Jared Norton:
IT: What are Jared’s strengths as a football player?
Hardin: Well, he's an intelligent football player. He has the athletic ability to make plays. He's probably one of the most sudden kids. When he deciphers where the ball is, getting from one spot to the other to get the ball is probably one of the best kids I've ever seen.
IT: We just talked to South Garland coach Mickey Moss, and he said that Jared kind of reminds him a little bit of Derrick Johnson, probably because of what you just said, that suddenness...
Hardin: And explosiveness. We noticed when we moved him up to our varsity team as a freshman, we noticed that he had that punch when he got to the point of contact and we noticed he had great range. He played corner as a freshman and we steadily moved him down inside and kind of built our defense around him. He's a kid that is always around the football. He's always around the ball, and he's one of those unique kids that when he gets there, something's gonna happen.
IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Jared?
Hardin: We didn't get specific because he's such a good player, but he's one of those players you plug in the tape and there's no doubt about what you're looking at. He's one that grabs your eye. I'm sure that's what all coaches are looking for, but they want that kid that grabs your eye and makes plays and is around the ball, and I think that's the biggest thing. When you turn the tape on, he grabs your eye. He's what you focus on and he's what you see.
IT: Where all did he play for you guys?
Hardin: He played middle linebacker.
IT: In your system, what were his responsibilities?
Hardin: This year we protected him quite a bit and let him run and go get the football. Ya know, we play so many spread teams, at times we used him as a rusher as well, either stunting or off the edge, that type of thing. He made a lot of big plays doing that. But his responsibility was to stop the run and he was a run stopper for our defense.
IT: What are the things you think Jared needs to work on to succeed at the next level?
Hardin: I think the thing that he knows that he must improve on, and he's already started working on it, is the strength factor. He played basketball up through his sophomore year so that weight room kind of took a back seat to that for a while. But in the last year-and-a-half he has really concentrated on the weight room and I think that's a strength. Physically he needs to get stronger to be the best player he can be and then I think other than that, all the tools are there. It's just going to be a process of him fitting into the system and going to the next level in speed -- the speed of the game every level you go increases -- but I think all the tools are there.
IT: What about his first step?
Hardin: It's good. That's good. He reads well. His first step is good. All that stuff is good. I think right now it's more of a physical thing. That's something that will make him a much better player.
IT: Do you foresee him staying at middle linebacker or might he be able to play outside?
Hardin: I think he'll stay inside. He's getting bigger and growing. He's 238 right now...
IT: He carries it really well...
Hardin: Ya know, he really does. He's 6-foot-3 1/2, 6-4, so I think he's going to be a kid that's probably going to carry 250 pounds or better, so I look for him to be inside but there are a lot smarter people down there than I am to make those decisions.
IT: If he potentially can carry 250, that's only 12 pounds from where he is right now. Do you think he keeps his speed at that weight?
Hardin: I don't think he loses a step. In fact, I think he gains a step. He's going somewhere where they'll take care of all that. Not that we haven't worked that, but with these guys, he's going to be optimum.
IT: Did he work at all on the other side of the ball for you guys?
Hardin: No, he didn't. Obviously he was quite capable of doing that, but we classify kids that are difference makers on one side of the ball, that are critical for our success and he falls into that category.
IT: You mentioned earlier that he started out for you guys at corner. How big was he then?
Hardin: He was a pretty good-sized freshman. You'd have to check with him, but I think he was about 190 pounds.
IT: Was Jared a leader for you guys, and if so, how did he lead?
Hardin: Obviously, a kid with that ability, they have to be a leader. Jared was more a lead by example type of guy who went out there and made big plays and caused the people around him to be better players.
IT: What did Jared mean to your football program?
Hardin: Well, a great deal! He and his class -- it wasn't just Jared, but he and his class, this was the first year that Rowlett had ever been in the playoffs and we felt like it was a special class, Jared being a part of that. When they came in as freshmen, we were very fortunate to be around these kids. Not only good football players, but good kids. Do what you ask 'em. You go out there and coach football and I think that's really neat. The other thing that Jared did being the player that he is is we had a tremendous number of coaches from all over the country in here, kind of put Rowlett on the map. We've had some good players come through in the past but he kinda put us on the map.
IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Jared's ability as a football player?
Hardin: He's always been a good football player, but when I saw him really come into his own was when he committed to Texas. I really do. The work ethic elevated, the urgency elevated, all of those kind of things elevated when he committed to Texas during the summer knowing that the program he was committed to and the expectation of that program.
IT: From a work ethic standpoint, he's a guy that has several months till he goes to Austin. Is he pushing?
Hardin: He's preparing right now for what's to come.
IT: What's he doing to prepare?
Hardin: Right now he is in the weight room on a daily basis. I see him every day in the weight room. He's concentrating on that. He's fixin' to get a personal trainer to start preparing him and of course he'll be there this summer getting ready.
IT: Has he told you specific things he wants to accomplish before he gets to Austin?
Hardin: He wants to be well prepared when he steps out there in August. Obviously, he wants the strength and the quickness to get better knowing the level he'll be expected to perform at.
IT: Is there anything you'd like to add about Jared that we didn't already cover?
Hardin: He's a tremendous young man. We've talked all about football but I think the important thing about the young man that makes us all proud is he's not only a good football player, he's a great person. He cares about people. He has an understanding of the work that it takes to be successful and he's just a class act. It's nice to be able to send a kid out and have the confidence that they're going to do things that they're supposed to do and need to do.
IT: Does a lot of the person he is come from his family?
Hardin: Without a doubt. He has a tremendous family, a very supportive mom and dad and I think there are very high expectations at home. I think the athletic end of it has always come pretty natural on this level. Not to say that he hasn't worked at that part, but I think mom and dad, you talk to them, and they have very high expectations for him character-wise and as a person. And I've heard momma say many times in here visiting with her, Football is football, but he better take care of himself up there at school and make his grades and do what he's supposed to.
IT: Hearing that, I would imagine that's gotta be part of the mutual appeal between Jared and Texas...
Hardin: Without a doubt. I think without a doubt. It's a class deal and I think class attracts class. That's the way it is. I'm very proud of the young man and I know his mom and dad are and he wants to do right.
UT's Signing Day bio: A two-time all-state selection and four-year starter who tallied 326 tackles, 18 sacks, 52 TFL and six forced fumbles during his final two seasons … started his career as a cornerback before switching to linebacker … earned first-team 5A all-state honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association as a senior … tabbed second-team 5A all-state by The Associated Press … named 5A Texas Football Defensive Player of the Year and Linebacker of the Year … tabbed 5A Region II MVP … earned District 11-5A MVP from the Dallas Morning News … named to Dave Campbell's Super Team second team in the preseason … led Rowlett High to its first ever playoff appearance and victory in 2005 … finished with 195 tackles, 13 sacks, 42 TFL, two forced fumbles and one interception … his 195 tackles broke the Garland Independent School District record … made 19 tackles, including four sacks, and had an INT in a victory over Plano West … earned honorable mention all-state honors from The Associated Press as a junior … made 131 tackles and recorded five sacks … made 24 tackles in a game against Cedar Hill … also competed in track and field and basketball as a freshman and sophomore … took engineering classes at El Centro Community College when he was in ninth grade … joined teammates in cleaning around Lake Ray Hubbard … cousin, Patrice Bullock, played basketball at Iowa … uncle, Fred Bullock, was an NFL Draft pick … full name is Jared D. Norton … born Jan. 8, 1988 in Dallas, Texas.
"The family atmosphere at Texas is so close. Also, the coaches were great. Each time I thought I had a favorite coach, I would meet another one and they all ended up being my favorite."
J'MARCUS WEBB (MONDAY, FEB. 13)
DUSTIN EARNEST (TUESDAY, FEB. 14)
BRITT MITCHELL (WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15)
EDDIE JONES (THURSDAY, FEB. 16)
VONDRELL MCGEE (FRIDAY, FEB. 17)