His name may not appear in the weekly box score and he will probably not answer many questions from the press, but Matt Norman may be on his way to living the boyhood dreams of many. In his final year as a Mustang, Norman fell short of his one last chance for team glory in the Yates Cup, but with humble words and a systematic work ethic, Norman will surely be a hit at the next level.
Hailing from Montreal, Quebec, a young Matthew Norman played many sports—ranging from soccer, baseball, hockey, rugby and football—but was not a standout at any.
“I got into football when I was seven years old. It was basically my dad that got me into sports when I was younger. I played a lot of different things including soccer, baseball, hockey and rugby, but football is just one of the ones that stuck,” Norman said.
As his stature might suggest—he stands six foot three and weighs 317 pounds—Norman was bigger than many kids his age and his size may have stunted his growth as a football player early on. Playing with older kids due to his gigantic stature, Norman was still slightly less mature than the older kids and it took him a while to finally excel.
“At the beginning, I was really bad at it because I was heavier than most of the other kids and I always got bumped up a weight class so I spent a couple years getting pushed around by older kids. I ended up spending four years in the same weight division and after that I grew into my own,” Norman said.
The irony behind Norman’s colossal stature—he is truly a mountain of a man—is that he is a soft-spoken, caring person. Beyond his burly build and trademark long hair, Norman is well-spoken, upstanding and works at his trait harder than many—his trait just happens to be knocking opposing 300 pounders on their butts.
“You put a game face on. It sounds cliché but I have a different personality when I wake up on game day, that is as easy as I describe it,” Norman said. “In order to play football here you need to carry yourself in a certain way, on or off the field you need to work hard and hopefully others will follow suit.”
As an offensive lineman it is known that the position lacks recognition so it really takes a special breed of person to fight in the trenches week after week for a mere pat on the back from coaches and teammates. Banging helmets with the man lined up across from him play after play, Norman has learned to gain appreciation from those around him that recognize his work.
Having transferred from Vanier College, Norman went on many recruiting trips but it was Western that caught his eye. Western stood out due to the people around him. A humble beginning to Norman’s football career at Western ended with him as the consummate team leader.
Standing in front of his teammates whose eyes are unabated from Norman, his pregame ritual is not for the faint of heart and would not be expected from someone as soft spoken as him. With his helmet on and his game face ready, Norman unleashes a profanity laced rant onto his teammates. Judging by the season’s results—7-1 regular season and the Mustangs’ fifth Yates Cup berth in a row—his teammates respond quite well.
“Matt was by far our biggest leader on the offence and on the team as well, he is extremely influential and his words carry a lot of weight with the players. He is also all you can ask for as a teammate. He is a superb lineman and can take on anyone in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. He brings a serious, intense attitude but he knows how to have some fun as well,” Mustangs fullback and longtime teammate Dan Duff said.
Following in the steps of many great Mustangs, Norman will surely be selected by the Canadian Football League during their 2012 entry draft. Listed as the number 11 prospect on the CFL’s preseason watch list, Norman has surely only improved his stock as he goes into the bulk of the scouting process. Though guidance never came in the form of words from former teammates and current CFL players John Surla and Craig Butler, Norman learned a lot from them as they undoubtedly followed coach Greg Marshall’s mantra of “lead by example.”
“I have obviously enjoyed playing with [John Surla and Craig Butler]. They have shown me a lot about how to play the sport and how to be disciplined and hit the weight room and how to play football. In terms of getting to the CFL, [advice] would help but I am not too sure how the process works now so in the future they may help,” Norman said.
A humble Norman claims to have not spoken to CFL scouts during the season and he also claims he has yet to participate in any part of the process that is involved in the CFL draft. Though he may not have heard much from teams as of yet, with the Mustangs ousted from the Ontario University Athletics playoffs, he should probably wait by his phone for a few calls.
“I think Matt has earned his recognition over his great career at Western. Generally, offensive linemen go unnoticed and unrecognized for their efforts and there have been times when Matt has been underappreciated. But this year he was awarded with first team OUA all-star and All Canadian, which is the best recognition a player can get. And it was very well deserved recognition,” Duff said as he illustrated the ire with which Norman’s teammates view him.
Though many students don’t know his name, one day they may be proud to hear Matt Norman representing their school at the next level.