by Austin Silvey
“You know I'm kinda short. I gotta sit up a little bit,” Kendall Norman said with a contagious smile as we were setting up the camera for his scheduled zoom interview with Spotlight 39 Podcast. We were in Spartanburg, SC for the first-ever Next Level Junior Classic event, held from December 18-21, 2020. The event was put on by TYGTAL Exposure and Sports Consulting.
Norman is currently a junior (Class of 2022) at Dorman High School which is located in Roebuck, SC in Spartanburg County. He plays wide receiver and does some kick/punt returning for the Cavaliers football team. He is a dynamic athlete with great speed and short area quickness. He is tough at the catch point and is a phenomenal route runner. He creates separation with ease in his releases and couples all that with dependable hands.
Outside of the on-field attributes, Norman also carries valued intangibles. He is a student of the game, has tremendous work ethic, high-character, a fierce competitor, carries a humble confidence, and most importantly, he gets his work done in the classroom.
He spends a lot of his free time with his family or friends but when he’s not with them or on the field, he’s staying active in other important ways. “Sometimes when I’m not with my family I go do community service with my aunt. She works downtown and we’ll go out and help the homeless community there.”
So what are Kendall’s weaknesses? Well, it’s a short list. His biggest weakness is the one thing he can’t control...his height. Norman’s physical abilities and intangibles make-up for his lack in what many consider a “preferable” size, but the biggest thing that sets him apart is a simple five-letter word…..heart.
When he can, Norman trains and works with well-known relative Deebo Samuel (yes, THAT Deebo Samuel). “His mom is my cousin, or something like that,” he told me. “Usually I train with him and Shi Smith (former UofSC Gamecocks WR). Shi is like a big brother to me. Him and Deebo really wanna make my routes crispy. I’m still working on it.”
He also mentioned how much Deebo, Shi, and some of his Dorman teammates helped shape his mentality as a player. “They said that even if I know I can beat the defender, to never slack off and go 100 percent. Don’t be a follower, be a leader. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
“Even though I’m the shortest one here, in my heart I feel like I’m 6’2”, you know?” - Kendall Norman
The game of football has changed dramatically in the last decade. Guys who are fast, quick, and athletic have become the desired commodity, even if they come up somewhat short in the height department. But there are shorter players who still get lost in the process because they don’t meet the typical size criteria.
There is no doubt that Norman is a FBS-caliber player but, along with his heart and character, his work ethic is what sets him apart from other recruits at the same position.
Norman not only knows what he is good at and how to use those abilities to his advantage, but he is also aware of his weaknesses, how to identify them, and then he works on fixing them.
“Usually I’ll sit in my bed and put HUDL on my tv and I just watch myself; not even the DB, I just watch myself,” Norman said. “If I do little things wrong, like if I false step or cut my route off too early, I won’t beat myself up but I know I have to fix that and I’ll write it down in my notebook. Then I’ll go and fix it the next day. I’ll go around the house and start running routes.”
During Kendall’s interview with Rob Otey of Spotlight 39 Podcast, he was asked what his coaches and/or trainers would say about him that make him stand out. Norman responded, “They’ll tell you I’m short, but I’ve got heart. I don’t really back down from anything. I lift like crazy, I’m really humble, and if a dude is bench pressing 195, I’m trying to bench 200.”
One of the oldest adages used in sports is “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Kendall Norman is the living, breathing embodiment of that proverb. He knows his journey to the next level won’t come easy. He knows he’ll have to work harder than most. But he also knows that he isn’t going to go through it alone and that football won’t last forever.
“When I go to college, I’m gonna major in business. I may try to start my own business if football doesn’t go my way,” Norman told Spotlight 39.
“My recruiting is going kind of slow right now but I’m not stressing it. I know the recruiting process is gonna take time so I’m just letting God take the wheel. I mean, I am a short receiver, but if any college is looking for a speedster they can hit me up,” he said with a smile.