By John Turney
Ken Norton Jr had quite a fine career as an NFL linebacker. He was chosen by Dallas Cowboys in the 2nd round (41st overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft. After his NFL career to coached the USC linebackers from 2004-09, then the Seahawks linebackers from 2010-14 and is currently the Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator, a post he's held since 2015.
In 1993 he was a Second-team All-Pro, although he was a First-team All-Pro on a team chosen by Pat Summerall, but as an esoteric team it's not recognized in the NFL Record & Fact Book, Total Football or in the NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreements but by the same token, it's worth mentioning.
In 1995 he was a consensus First-team All-Pro and named to his second Pro Bowl. He would garner a third Pro Bowl in 1997, as a replacement. In 1996 he was named to Sports Illustrated's All-Pro team by Paul (Dr. Z) Zimmerman, he was also a Pro Bowl alternate that year. In addition to the Pro Bowl, in 1997 Norton was named to the Miami Herald's All-Pro team.
Norton played all linebacker positions in the NFL, with Dallas he was mostly a weak side linebacker, but in 1991 he played the strong side as a "Sam"
With the 49ers he played under different listings, but mostly he was a stacked backer, playing the weak side of over- and under-shifts, essentially the same position that Junior Seau was playing for the Chargers. In 1995 and 1996, though he was the "Mike" or middle linebacker, though still in the stacked position, though that is not unusual for a MLBer, but it points to that he was essentially doing similar things as when he was the "Will" in the 49ers Elephant Defense (what they called their 4-3 defense). He was an every down player who earned three Super Bowl rings in a row, from 1992-94.
In his year as a "Sam" he had 15 stuffs, which tied for first in the NFL, according to PFJ's Nick Webster and he ended his career with 91 of those run/pass stuffs among the better numbers that have been found.
He was not one of the "rush backers" of the time getting sacks but a stout run-stopper who also was effective in pass downs covering the middle zones or taking a back in man coverage. Though he got no support for the All-Decade teams of the 1990s he was still, a fine backer who played an interesting role of the stacked linebacker defenses of the era.