5 things to know about new Commanders LB coach Ken Norton Jr.

Washington Commanders owner Josh Harris said one of new head coach Dan Quinn’s strengths was his ability to assemble a staff of quality people. Over two weeks into Quinn’s tenure, that statement rings true.

Shortly after Quinn’s hiring, the Commanders hired Kliff Kingsbury (offensive coordinator) and Joe Whitt Jr. (defensive coordinator). While Kingsbury had some issues as Arizona’s head coach, he should thrive focusing only on the offense.

Whitt, a first-time coordinator with outstanding credentials, was more than ready for this opportunity. He’s worked with Quinn since 2020.

Another big-time hire for Quinn is linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. A veteran NFL player and coach, Norton is widely respected across college football and the NFL. He is a two-time NFL defensive coordinator, bringing plenty of experience to Quinn’s staff.

Here are five things to know about Washington’s new linebackers coach.

The son of a legend

Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) (L) kept his title of heavyweight boxing world champion against his compatriot Ken Norton at the Yankee Stadium in New York on September 09, 1976. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) (L) kept his title of heavyweight boxing world champion against his compatriot Ken Norton at the Yankee Stadium in New York on September 09, 1976. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Norton’s father, Ken Sr., was a heavyweight boxer who finished his career with a record of 42-7-1 with 33 knockouts. Norton’s most famous bouts came against Muhammad Ali. Norton handed Ali his second loss with a split-decision win, winning the heavyweight title in the process and breaking Ali’s jaw. Ali won the rematch by split decision. They fought a third time, with Ali scoring a controversial victory.

Norton Sr. is in multiple boxing Hall of Fames.


Ken Norton Jr. chose football

Norton Jr. chose football over boxing, partly because his father did not want him boxing. It proved to be a wise decision. He was a star running back in high school. Norton Jr. went to UCLA, where he moved to linebacker and became a three-year starter, leading the Bruins in tackles in each of his final two seasons, becoming a Butkus Award semifinalist. Norton is a member of the UCLA Hall of Fame.

Norton played 13 NFL seasons

Norton was a second-round pick of the Cowboys in 1988. After missing his rookie season, Norton started for the Cowboys in each of the next five seasons. He signed with the 49ers in 1994 and started seven more seasons. For his career, Norton played in 191 games, with 188 starts. He finished his career with 1,272 tackles. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was a two-time All-Pro selection. He won three Super Bowls (two with the Cowboys, one with the 49ers).

Norton was a part of the initial NFL Network crew

Before Norton got into coaching, he tried his hand at working in the media. When the NFL Network launched in 2003, Norton, along with fellow former NFL linebacker Seth Joyner and Rich Eisen, were a few of the initial crew members of “NFL Total Access.”

His TV career didn’t last long, as Norton wanted to jump into coaching, joining Pete Carroll at USC  — his archrival from college.

He has developed some outstanding players

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Seattle Seahawks;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Seattle Seahawks</a> middle linebacker <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Bobby Wagner;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Bobby Wagner</a> (54) talks to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Norton remained with USC until 2010, when he followed Carroll to the NFL. At USC, Norton helped develop some tremendous linebackers, such as Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews Jr. and Rey Maualuga. When he went to the Seahawks, he was the position coach for Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. It was with the Seahawks that Norton first met Quinn.

In 2015, he received his first chance as a defensive coordinator with the Raiders. His head coach? Jack Del Rio. After three seasons with the Raiders, Norton returned to Seattle as Carroll’s defensive coordinator, reuniting with Wagner and Wright.

In Washington, Jamin Davis could certainly use a coach with Norton’s pedigree and experience.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire