Walk into the Redskins locker room, and you'll most likely find cornerback Josh Norman carrying or kicking a ball around with him. But that ball is not a typical pigskin.
Although Norman may strap up his helmet and guard wide receivers for a living, his true passion is not American football. The Pro Bowl cornerback's first love is their other type of football, better known as soccer.
Norman appeared as a guest on the Men In Blazers podcast on Monday, a popular NBC Sports European football talk show. The Men in Blazers crew, Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, hosted a live show at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Monday, and other guests that made an appearance include D.C. United striker and English football legend Wayne Rooney, as well as the United States Women's National Team and Washington Spirit forward Rose Lavelle.
You can listen to the full podcast below. Norman enters around the 1:06:00 mark. The full interview will be shown on Sept. 15 on NBC Sports Network as part of their Premier League coverage.
The eight-year NFL veteran originally became a soccer fan in 1999 or 2000, telling Men In Blazers that "playing [his] little brother in FIFA" first sparked his soccer fandom.
"Playing the game, I wanted to be better than my brother," he said.
But what really turned Norman into an obsessive soccer fan was when he met former Paris St. Germain star and current LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic when PSG was on a United States tour during the 2015 summer. PSG played a pre-season friendly that summer in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium, the same pitch Norman used to call home during his first four seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.
"Meeting Zlatan in Charlotte, I truly fanboyed for the first time," Norman said. "I know how it feels to be a fan. I truly do. I took myself out of who I am as a professional football player to a fan of not only the sport but a guy. As he would say, 'living immortal.'"
Norman was also star struck by other PSG icons, such as Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva.
Although it were the French giants that were the reason for Norman's suddenly growing soccer obsession, they are not his club of choice. Norman supports Manchester United and is very good friends with their midfielder and French National, Paul Pogba. When the Redskins played the Bengals in London three years ago, Norman met up with Pogba after the game, and the two of them made an appearance on NBC Sports Washington's postgame show.
When asked whether he would want Pogba on his team, Norman joked: "Not today."
While Norman claims the players were the main reason he chose to support the Red Devils, he told Men in Blazers two unusual and unique answers as to other reasons why he has such an affinity for the club.
"I went out there and visited and got a tour of the entire facility," Norman said on his first visit to Old Trafford. "I got to see how green their grass is. It was unbelievable. It's literally a cut above our fields. I don't know what they do, if they cut it a right way, they literally have a science to it. And then just going out there on the pitch, it's very high security. The security level was higher than the pent[agon] or the White House."
Both Davies and Bennett, as well as the entire crowd, had quite the laugh after hearing that.
The cornerback may be a fan of Manchester United, but this past offseason, he took in a Champions League match featuring another Premier League team: Liverpool. The match happened to be the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals against Barcelona, with Liverpool pulling off an improbable comeback to advance to the finals.
Norman was one of the spectators to be in attendance for that magical night in Anfield, where an injured Liverpool squad came back from a 3-0 deficit on aggregate to defeat Barcelona 4-0 and advance.
"But being in Anfield, their front four was hurt. Mo Salah, he didn't play. [Roberto] Firmino, he didn't play either," Norman said. "But they came alive. Of course, they believed in themselves, but they got something more than just believing in themselves. Like stands full of 60-80,000 people that just went forward with "You'll Never Walk Alone," that's all you heard the whole entire time. Aggregate 3-0, you're not coming back from that. You might as well put the nail in the coffin."
There are very few sporting events in the world that can compare to the atmosphere of a Champions League night. Norman was asked if he had every played in an atmosphere similar to what he saw that night in Liverpool.
He said there was only one game that could compare. That would be when he played in the most-watched American sporting event every year, the Super Bowl.
"I was almost about to say never, but being in the Super Bowl," he said. "That thing right there, oh my god. Super Bowl 50, you're standing on the sideline with all the greats that played the game before us. You just see the jewelry that those guys got on their hands, the all-time greatest teams walk out there. It's an unbelievable experience. It was really just a rockstar fest."
The Men in Blazers duo asked Norman to compare what being down 3-0 in soccer is equivalent to in American football.
The cornerback, who is never afraid to speak his mind, responded jokingly "28-3," referring to the 25-point lead the Atlanta Falcons blew to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
The Redskins regular season begins in less than three weeks, so their star cornerback will have to hold off on his European soccer adventures until next offseason. But No. 24 already has in mind the next match he wants to see.
"I haven't seen Celtic versus Rangers," he said, referencing the Scotish football rivalry. "I hear so much about it. I would love to sit down and watch that, it would be cool."
In the NFL, winning a Super Bowl is the ultimate goal every year. In soccer, winning the World Cup is the highest achievement one can earn.
But if Norman had the choice between scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl or scoring a goal in the World Cup, what he would choose came to the delight of many in attendance at the show.
"Well, you got to think about it," Norman said. For me, I'd have to take the billions of people that watch the soccer goal."
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