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Top MAC Football Players of 2013: #52, Cheatham Norrils, Toledo DB

And to think, the third team All-MAC cornerback wanted to be called Eddie.


St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo has produced a few athletes: former NBA center John Amaechi, NFL punter Brandon Fields, Hornets guard Brian Roberts and Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski. Coming in dead last among athletic SJJ graduates is no doubt me. But rising up the ranks is Cheatham Norrils, who has a fantastic name and doubly so because Cheatham just sounds like an excellent defensive back name.

For whatever reason, when he was recruited out of high school and committed cross-city to the University of Toledo he made it known that he'd prefer to go by his actual first name, Eddie. (Cheatham is his middle name.) But for yet another unknown reason, Eddie never stuck and now he's back to Cheatham, perhaps because once people know your name is Cheatham, it's difficult to reverse that fortune.

The son of parents who both work in criminal justice (a police officer and a probation officer), Norrils played sparingly in 2011, recording nine tackles. He began last year in the preseason projected as a backup strong safety, but worked his way to a starting cornerback spot for the seaseon opener at Arizona. His breakout game (so far) was against rival Bowling Green, where his interception, pass breakup and seven tackles netted him MAC West Defensive Player of the Week.

(By the way, there seems to be a theme of Rockets defenders having breakout games against BGSU, and I don't like it one bit, but when it's an SJJ alum, I can live with it. Live the fourth.)

When the dust settled on the season, Norrils finished with 74 tackles (49 solo), two interceptions, two tackles for loss and five pass breakups. This was also good enough for him to be named third team All-MAC.

This year he is the team's returning leading tackler and tied for the lead in returning INTs and pass breakups, which will happen when he's just one of four returning starters on defense. But according to the spring depth chart, all those awards and stats don't translate to a guaranteed starting job. Coach Matt Campbell stated in the past that Norrils "has the potential to be as good as he wants to be," but this spring he indicated that he needs to be more consistent. So first he needs to be good enough to beat out surging true sophomore Juwan Haynes for the second cornerback spot.

This is already an incredibly young secondary with only one senior listed on the three-deep. Given that they already allowed the sixth most passing yards per game, and factor in many key defensive players lost to graduation, their safeties and CBs have a ton to prove and the Rockets are going to be at their best with Norrils playing at his best. For the sake of the list of St. John's Jesuit HS Titans, let's hope he does. Although for the sake of BGSU winning the Battle of I-75 ... go ahead and take a couple plays off.