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Norsworthy has a string of hits Tough guy: Arundel's fullback-linebacker is a throwback who enjoys defense as much as carrying the ball.


Attend any Arundel High football game this season and one of the first things most people are talking about is middle linebacker-fullback John Norsworthy.

"They know about him all over the state," said Arundel coach Bill Zucco. "People come up to me and say they come just to watch him hit, not to see our team. People are always asking, 'Who's No. 40?' after they see him make a couple of tackles."

No. 40 is about as complete a football player as anybody in the Baltimore area.

Norsworthy not only lives to punish runners with a hard-nosed NFL style of play from middle linebacker but he is a bruising fullback who almost always can pick up that tough one or two yards for a first down.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior also is a quiet leader on a team that has to be considered a strong contender for the state 4A football championship.

And he is a coach's dream.

There just aren't that many high school football players anywhere who truly prefer to play defense over offense.

Norsworthy does and that has endeared him to Zucco.

"He is so strong on defense that I didn't use him much on offense the past two years," said Zucco. "But he's such an outstanding runner that I've used him more at fullback than usual this season. I've been here since 1966 and he's as tough a player as anybody I've ever seen here."

In the first six games for the unbeaten, fifth-ranked Arundel team, Norsworthy racked up 63 first hits on defense and carried the ball 45 times for 300 yards and three touchdowns.

The 63 first hits are only a little off his pace for 11 games last season when he had 121 in a year he only had to run the ball 15 times.

The three-year starter on defense admitted that the extra workload this season on offense has affected his defensive play.

"I get a little tired," said Norsworthy.

But it hasn't prevented the Wildcats from marching past the likes of defending state 4A champion North County (21-14) on the way to a perfect start and talk of a state championship.

"I think we're in the running [for the state title]," said Norsworthy. "We're a smart team on the field and off. I think we can stack up with any team."

Arundel's quest for a state championship is intensified by a 39-15 loss to North County in the 4A quarterfinals last season. The Wildcats had beaten the Knights, 28-14, in the regular season last year.

In that win over North County, Zucco believes Norsworthy had his finest hour as a Wildcat.

"He made so many tackles we had trouble keeping up with them," said Zucco. "John has had a lot of good games but I believe that was the best."

Norsworthy was rewarded for the multitude of outstanding defensive games last season with first-team All-County and second-team All-Metro honors.

This has all been accomplished by an athlete whose family background in sports centers around a baseball player, not football.

"My grandfather [Rube Randolph] played second base in the minor leagues for the Philadelphia Phillies," said Norsworthy. "He comes to watch me play but never talks to me about why I'm playing football instead of baseball."

Football just came naturally for him, said Norsworthy.

"I've played and watched a lot of football since I was real young," he said. "I think I learned how to hit people hard by watching college and pro football on television. My favorite teams are the Redskins and Notre Dame. I know the Redskins are down but they're rebuilding."

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