Hidden among the draft picks, undrafted free agents and tryout hopefuls at Washington Redskins minicamp was a player wearing No. 24 with “Norman” on the back.
It wasn’t starting cornerback Josh Norman. It was his older brother Marrio.
There on a tryout on Josh’s recommendation, Marrio Norman is a 30-year-old safety who has bounced around from the Lone Star Football League to the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League, mixing in a brief stint with the Baltimore Ravens. Redskins rookie minicamp was the latest stop on the less-famous Norman’s nomadic football journey.
“I know my brother being here didn’t hurt any,” Norman said Saturday. “It’s been challenging. I’ve had a lot of fun playing obviously in the Arena League and the CFL and had a stint with the Ravens. It’s been an uphill battle, but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing. I’ve met a lot of good people, traveled all around the world. I’ve definitely enjoyed it.”
Marrio Norman didn’t expect to get Josh’s practice jersey for the three-day minicamp and joked he’s “got some big shoes to fill.” But if you hear the second-oldest of five brothers tell it, he has been setting the bar for Josh since they were kids, born 16 months apart.
Growing up in Greenwood, South Carolina, Marrio and Orlando would team up in front-yard football games against Josh and oldest brother Renaldo, with youngest brother Phillip snapping. When it got dark, the 2-on-2 game would continue, the players on their knees in the living room.
“Always competition,” Marrio said, adding that the losers had to do push-ups or sit-ups.
Josh followed Marrio to Coastal Carolina, and the older brother set the standard.
“No matter where I was, I always made a lot of plays, a lot of interceptions, so I always gave him something to actually reach and obtain,” Marrio said. “I showed him how to work hard — work ethic. That goes a long way when you got someone that you can see day in, day out and what they put into their craft.”
It shows now, with Josh typically the last player on the field after practice, working on his hands by catching balls out of a JUGS machine long after many teammates are out of the shower. Josh was an All-Pro cornerback with the Carolina Panthers in 2016, signed a $75 million, five-year deal with Washington last spring and has become one of the NFL’s more noticeable names in recent years.
Marrio enjoyed watching Josh’s celebrity grow but tried to keep his brother’s head from getting too big.
“I’m still one of his biggest critics as far as critiquing his game and letting him know what he could have done better because he has enough people to tell him what he’s doing correct,” Marrio said. “I was that one that come in like: ‘Hey man, you can do this a little different. You opened up a little too early, your eyes was bad on this play.’ Just critiquing him along the way, that’s what I think I’ve done more so than anything. A lot of the time he didn’t want to listen, but who cares.”
Meanwhile, Josh kept propping up his brother to Redskins coach Jay Gruden, who joked that one Norman was enough. Gruden listened and brought in the former West Texas Roughnecks, Georgia Force, Orlando Predators, Saskatchewan Roughriders and Cleveland Gladiators defensive back for a tryout.
“He’s got a skillset,” Gruden said. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a good player. He’s played in a couple different leagues and runs around out there good.”
Marrio was in camp with the Ravens in 2014 and describes himself as a “savvy ball hawk.” Sounds familiar, though Marrio says Josh mimics him.
The Norman brothers play alike and are soft-speakers: “Until we get on the field, of course,” Marrio said.
It’s a long shot that Marrio joins Josh on the field at Redskins training camp in Richmond, Virginia, but he’s grateful for the chance and would keep that No. 24 jersey.
“That’s mine,” Marrio said with a smile. “He can forget about it. I’m taking it from him. I’m taking it from him definitely. He’s going to have to give it up.”