ASHBURN — The quote came months ago, long enough ago that you wonder if Josh Norman even remembers saying it.
“I’m the best cornerback on Earth,” Josh Norman said in front of ESPN writer Kevin Van Valkenburg during an interview in Paris.
In France to meet with former Paris Saint-Germain soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic – now with Manchester United – Norman made the comments off the cuff in front of Van Valkenburg and members of PSG’s communications team. Maybe he was playing to the crowd. Maybe Norman really believes it.
But when the quote hit this week it was yet another sign that Norman’s world has changed dramatically over the past year. Every brash statement now is taken at face value. Every feud – real, as with New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., or overblown, as with Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson – takes off on social media.
“I just think that once I was the underdog and I had to fight my way up to the top,” Norman said. “I had to like drive, drive, drive, drive and continue to work hard and do everything that I’ve gotten to this point. But now, I’m no longer the underdog. Now I’m no longer that person.”
Norman, to be fair, wanted nothing to do with that line of questioning. His interview with ESPN was months ago. He’s endured enough drama this summer with continued sniping to and from Beckham, a contentious interview with ESPN’s First Take program and the Peterson twitter kerfuffle over who had a better rating in a video game.
In a million years, Norman said, he didn’t expect this to be the price of a new level of fame. He is the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. He had a wonderful season with the Carolina Panthers last year and played in the Super Bowl. His epic battle with Beckham last December made him a national name – much the way Richard Sherman’s explosive anger after a playoff game with the Seattle Seahawks propelled him from well-respected NFL player to a higher, different level of fame.
Sherman had a little longer track record on the field, though. Norman had a very nice 2014 season and was often brilliant last year. He has risen to his fame like a hot air balloon. That makes Norman a target. And he’s okay with that.
“Now I am the guy that has to take on a new face, has to take on a new mask and be somebody that is always going to be the standard,” Norman said. “And [be] looked at as, ‘Okay, well then we’ve got to go after him, we’ve got to see where that’s like.’ That’s in a new realm for me. That’s something that I haven’t experienced yet and now taking that challenge and looking at it, I want to do it in a way I want to do it and not no way nobody else want to make me do it. I think that, in an aspect, I just have to grow in that field, which I will.”
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