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Former Football Standout Ken Norton Jr. to Coach Inside Linebackers

Mar 4, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly announced Friday the hiring of Ken Norton Jr. as inside linebackers coach. Norton makes his return to Westwood, where he was an All-America linebacker for head coach Terry Donahue from 1984-87 and helped lead the Bruins to four consecutive bowl game wins and the 1985 Pac-10 Conference championship. Still listed among the top 10 Bruins in career tackles, he comes back to campus with 18 seasons of coaching experience that included championships on the professional and college levels. Norton is the only player in NFL history to be a member of three consecutive winning Super Bowl teams.

Most recently, Norton completed a stint as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, a title he held from 2018-2021. During that tenure in Seattle, the Seahawks advanced to the NFC playoffs three times. He coached several Pro Bowl players during that span, including cornerback Shaquill Griffin, linebacker Bobby Wagner and safeties Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. Wagner was named an All-Pro each season. In 2021, linebacker Jordyn Brooks piled up a franchise-record 183 total tackles.

From 2015-17, Norton served as the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders advanced to the playoffs in 2016 after finishing second in the AFC West. He coached All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack, who was named AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and garnered All-Pro selections in 2015 and 2016. Safety Charles Woodson also earned All-Pro acclaim (2015) during Norton's time in Oakland.

Norton worked as linebackers coach for Seattle from 2010-14, helping the Seahawks advance to the playoffs in four of his five seasons. Seattle finished first in the NFL West in 2013 and 2014 while posting a combined 25-7 record and advancing to back-to-back Super Bowls (XLVIII and XLIX). The Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII at the conclusion of the 2013 season after producing one of the best defensive performances in NFL history. Seattle led the league in fewest yards allowed, fewest points allowed and most takeaways while holding 13 opponents to 17 or fewer points during the 2013 season. The Seahawks lost Super Bowl XLIX the next year, but Wagner was named first-team All-Pro. Norton was instrumental in the development of the Seahawks strong linebacker group, which included K.J. Wright, Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith, special teams captain Heath Farwell and pass rush specialist Bruce Irvin.

Norton embarked on his college coaching career at the University of Southern California from 2004-09. He worked with the Trojan linebackers as a defensive assistant in 2004, linebackers coach in 2005-09 and then added the title of Assistant Head Coach for the 2009 season. Norton's USC teams produced a record of 68-10 during that time, finishing in the top 5 of the final AP poll each year from 2004-08 and appearing in two BCS National Championship Games (following the 2004 and 2005 seasons) and three Rose Bowl Games (following the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons). USC finished atop the Pac-10 standings in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Three of his linebackers were named Rose Bowl Defensive MVPs: Brian Cushing (2007), Rey Maualuga (2008) and Kaluka Maiava (2009).

During Norton's time with the Trojans, USC produced some of the nation's most highly regarded defensive units. USC's 2008 defense rated first in scoring (9.0 points per game) and was second nationally in total defense (221.77 yards per game) and fifth in rushing defense (87.38 yards per game). The 2007 Trojans were No. 2 in the country in both total defense (273.15) and scoring defense (16.0). In 2006, USC was tied for ninth in rushing defense (91.08), 11th in scoring defense (15.2) and 20th in total defense (295.85). The 2005 USC team ranked second in the nation in turnover margin (1.62). In 2004, the Trojans were tops in the nation in both rushing defense (79.38) and turnover margin (1.46) while rating third in scoring defense (13.0) and sixth in total defense (279.31).

Linebackers Matt Grootegoed (2004), Lofa Tatupu (2004), Keith Rivers (2007), Brian Cushing (2008) and Maualuga (2008) each earned first-team All-America recognition under Norton's direction. Maualuga was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and was selected to the All-Conference squad three times (2006-08). He was also a finalist for the 2008 Butkus, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards. Cushing (2009) and Rivers (2008) each were NFL draft first-round selections, while Maualuga (2009) and Tatupu (2005) were second-round picks. Linebackers Dallas Sartz (fifth round) and Oscar Lua (seventh round) were also picked in the 2007 draft. Thomas Williams (fifth round) joined Rivers in the 2008 draft. Clay Matthews was a first-round draftee in 2009 along with Cushing, while Maiava went off the board in the fourth round.

One of the premier linebackers in NFL and college football history, Norton played six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys after being selected in the second round of the 1988 draft. He made the Pro Bowl in his final season with the Cowboys in 1993 and was on back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams in 1992 and 1993. Norton signed with the San Francisco 49ers for the following season and became the first – and still only – player in NFL history to be a member of three straight Super Bowl winning teams when San Francisco won the 1994 title. He was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 1995. He was a first-team All-Pro pick in 1995 and a second-team All-Pro performer in 1993. Norton earned a third Pro Bowl invite following the 1997 campaign. He retired as a player from the NFL in 2000 after 13 seasons in the league and became a radio and television commentator and analyst. Norton also went on to coach at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.

Norton starred at linebacker on the 1984-87 UCLA football teams, which combined to produce a 36-10-2 record. He earned All-America recognition following the 1987 season and was the team's leading tackler in both 1986 (106 tackles) and 1987 (125). In 1987, Norton was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. The Bruins were victorious in four straight bowl games with Norton – the 1985 Fiesta Bowl versus Miami, the 1986 Rose Bowl versus Iowa, the 1986 Freedom Bowl versus BYU and the 1987 Aloha Bowl versus Florida. Norton currently ranks eighth on the all-time UCLA tackles list (339). In 1998, he was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame.

Norton earned a degree in sociology from UCLA in 1998. He prepped at Westchester High School in Los Angeles. He and his wife Angela have three children – Brittney, Sabrina and Ken III.