New England Patriots

Catching up with ... former Colts cornerback Norm Thompson

Catching up with ... former Colts cornerback Norm Thompson

He leads a quiet life, in relative anonymity. But 40 years ago, Norm Thompson shook the NFL to its core by becoming the first player to file for free agency and sign with another club. His new team? The Colts.

Yet Thompson, 72, is seldom recognized as a pioneer and is hardly as well-known as baseball’s Curt Flood, whose 1970 lawsuit against the major leagues led to free agency in that sport.

Of course, Flood was a three-time All-Star; Thompson, a savvy 6-foot-1, 185-pound defensive back who, in his first year in Baltimore (1977), helped the Colts win their third consecutive division title.

“He’s my big-play guy,” coach Ted Marchibroda said of Thompson, who proved it down...

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