Chris Norman: Faith Leads to Success
Sept. 19, 2012
By Rachel English, MSU Athletic Communications Graduate Assistant
Senior starting linebacker Chris Norman considers himself very blessed. As he approaches graduation, Norman considers his future and reflects on his growth in recent years.
Norman grew up in Detroit in a Christian household. While he went to church four times a week as a child and was a member of the church choir, he lacked appreciation for the faith he has recently found.
"While growing up in Detroit there were a lot of negative influences around me," said Norman, who credits his family for steering him in a positive direction. "I was extremely lucky to have a family that loved me and got involved when I wasn't making good decisions in life."
Norman graduated from Detroit Renaissance High School in 2009, finding success not only athletically for the football and track teams, but also in the classroom.
"Detroit has a negative image in society," said Norman. "There is an image that it's terrible everywhere, and there are bad areas. But it's not all bad. There are beautiful places in the city and some good schools."
Norman has seen his fair share of adversity with two injuries limiting his role at times. The first major setback he faced was during the final game of the 2010 season against Alabama, where Norman severely injured his elbow. Because of the injury, he was restricted in his ability to practice with his fellow Spartans the following spring.
After hearing from a friend about the Ultimate Training Camp, a Christian football camp, he decided to travel to Colorado. With this injury, he realized how quickly a gift could be taken away and was inspired to try a new experience.
"I saw something in the people at camp that I didn't see as a child when attending church," said Norman. "Faith at camp seemed authentic. People genuinely had a love for the Lord and were comfortable sharing their love for him."
After camp, Norman decided to give his life to Jesus and live for him. Norman now strives in his everyday activities to devote his life to Jesus, finding inspiration in John 4:19, We love because he first loved us. Combining faith and football is a daily task for Norman as he works to make sure that his team succeeds with his support.
"Football was very stressful for me before I accepted my faith," Norman said. "I was constantly worrying about what the coaches were talking about or the fans were thinking. I now go out and play as hard as I can with my maximum amount of effort. I remember that whatever happens, happens."
Elected as one of this year's three team captains, Norman is now in his third year as a starter and has totaled 154 tackles, including a career-high 76 last season.
"As a captain you have to serve the people who chose you," said Norman. "A huge part of it is the responsibility of knowing when to speak up and give the team some inspiration. When it's halftime and we're down or not playing to our potential, or before the game to get emotion going.
"I hope the team sees me as someone who works very hard. I want to leave a legacy at Michigan State as an athlete that was able to give my mind and sacrifice my body, while also doing the thing that no one else wanted to do."
While on the field, Norman leads his team, hoping to influence his teammates in a positive manner. But that's not the only place where Norman views himself as a leader.
During spring break this past March, Norman traveled to South Africa with Athletes in Action, a sports ministry that works through sports to build spiritual engagements, hoping to have the same positive effect on the youth in another continent.
"I think I learned more from them than they learned from me," said Norman of his trip. "The people were very content with their lives despite their few possessions."
Norman spent six days in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, and Soweto, an urban area inside Johannesburg. Less than 50 percent of households in Johannesburg have a microwave or DVD or VHS player, while less than 25 percent have a bicycle, computer, washing machine, or camera - all appliances and technology that a majority of Americans take for granted.
"My most memorable experience there was when we went to a high school that was below American standards and was somewhat uncomfortable for me," said Norman. "I wasn't used to it. The structure of the high school on the outside was terrible, but the people inside were awesome. I was greeted with songs and dances; the kids were extremely happy to see us."
A visit to Nelson Mandela's house as well as Lion and Rhino Park were also on the itinerary for South Africa. On the flight back, an opportunity arose to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe during a long layover in Paris.
"I hope from the experience I remember to focus on what really matters in life," said Norman. "I traveled there to spread the word of Jesus as I'm working on living for him and dedicating my life to him. I want to continue to be a believer and approach it in the uninhibited manner I was able to in South Africa."
Norman hopes to return to South Africa in July of 2013 and share his passion for football and faith again. He also wants to make an impact on his hometown. His dream is to one day play for the Lions while bringing what he's learned from MSU's Athletes in Action to the city.
Norman is on track to graduate with a degree in psychology. While he finds the study of the brain's functions and human behavior interesting, he hopes to one day join the seminary and continue his studies in a new field.
"Hopefully, I can use my life story as an example," said Norman. "I want to let people know that you don't have to be afraid to break the mold."
This feature was originally published in the Sept. 15 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.
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