With experience on his side, John Norcross is ready to make an impact as a linebacker for the Portland State University football team.
“I’ve just gotten better on my discipline,” he said. “The offense is trying to do these different shifts and tricks. Just how disciplined can you be? That’s the biggest thing I’ve grown up with. I’m obviously getting bigger, faster, stronger and just that discipline you have to have.”
The 21-year-old played all 12 games for the Vikings in 2015, whether it was at linebacker or on special teams. Norcross finished the season with 28 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. On Sept. 12, 2015, the Camas High School graduate made a career high 13 tackles in a 34-14 victory at Idaho State.
“He’s an overachiever,” said head coach Bruce Barnum. “He does everything, on and off the field. You can’t slow him down.
“He’s kind of like mud. He just seeps on you.”
Norcross hopes making better execution on his tackles will lead to more starts for the Vikings in 2016. He took advantage of the team’s new weight room and gained 15 pounds of muscle coming into this season. He started out football camp at 230 pounds.
“A big focus for the team and a big focus for me, because it’s something I struggled with last year, is just tackling. Finishing the play,” Norcross said. “We did two hours of tackling drills. That’s the key these first couple of days ramping up. Not so much scheme, but just finishing those plays with the tackles.”
Portland State begins the season at home Saturday, Sept. 3, against Central Washington University. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m., at Providence Park.
The Vikings are coming off a 9-3 season, and a 6-2 second-place finish in the Big Sky Conference. They defeated conference champion Southern Utah 24-23 in week 10. Northern Iowa beat PSU 29-17 in the second round of the playoffs, in Portland.
“Just being able to have the playoffs here, and be in that spot, that was huge for us,” Norcross said. “We weren’t pleased with the outcome, but we’re hoping to return to that level and show that last year wasn’t a fluke. This is what Portland State football is about now.”
Not only does Norcross see the Vikings contending for the Big Sky Championship, he would also like to help them make a deep run into the playoffs.
“My goal this year is just to win, plain and simple,” Norcross said. “You have that end goal, but you have to focus on those small steps. That’s what I think this team does really well. We just take it day by day, and we go from one thing to the next. We never lose sight of what that overall end goal is, but we also know that we have to be focused, be present and be in the moment.”
It all starts with the brotherhood Norcross shares with his teammates. He lives with fellow linebacker Beau Duronslet.
“If you’re going over something in the playbook that you don’t understand, you can bounce questions off each other or just different ideas,” Norcross said. “It also keeps you honest. If I’m sleeping in and all the sudden I hear that door open … Beau’s heading out the door, I got to get going too.
“It’s a competition, but it’s also brotherly love,” he added. “That bond is huge, and you can really feed off it when you’re playing.”
Norcross thanks his Camas football coaches for giving him a solid foundation to build on at Portland State University.
“They just instilled that show up, work, be the first one on, last one off type of mentality,” Norcross said. “You can’t forget your roots. I definitely have my Viking pride, but I will always be a Papermaker.”
Barnum said Norcross might not be the biggest or the fastest player on the field, but he always seems to be in the right spot.
“The one thing I know about John Norcross, he’s going to be successful,” the coach said. “Football is a game, he’s going to win in the game of life.
“Somebody brought him up right before he got to us. Kudos to his parents and the coaches at Camas High School.”