Jim was a native Californian and a "string-bean" at 6-foot-3 and 145 pounds when he attended high school. However, he was an endowed athlete with great talent to be a two-way player at quarterback and defensive back and punter for Fullerton High School.
When Idaho Coach Skip Stahley saw game films of Norton, he believed he was too light for college football. Former Idaho quarterback Gary Johnson convinced Stahley he actually weighed 1 80 pounds, and Stahley recruited him. Arriving at the Idaho campus, Norton shocked Stahley when he weighed in at 155 pounds, and after chewing out Johnson, Stahley figured Norton would never play varsity football. Then the highly-motivated Norton proceeded to play quarterback and defensive back and punted for the frosh team.
For three years of varsity ball, Jim played wide-receiver, defensive back and was the team's punter. In four years of competition, Norton never missed a game and set some outstanding marks. He led the nation with nine interceptions and 233 yards of returns on interceptions. He was named to the Honorable Mention list as an All-American in his senior year. Stahley still reminds Norton that despite his slight build, he was the only Idaho Vandal player to be featured on the cover of a national sport magazine, playing in the glory years of Jerry Kramer and Wayne Walker. Graduating from Idaho in 1 960 with a B.S. in Business Administration, he was drafted by both the AFL Houston Oilers and the NFL Detroit Lions in the fourth round. Norton took the AFL route with Houston and began his illustrious career. Jim played nine years for the Oilers, racking up many team and league records. He holds the Oilers record for 45 pass interceptions, and a career punting average of 42. 5 yards.
He also holds the record for the longest punt at 79 yards and 51 0 yards in interception returns. Norton started in five pro-bowl games, and keeping up his Idaho tradition, he never missed a game in nine years with Houston. Jim is one of the very first pro players to be a starter and also the team punter. Norton was honored by the Oilers after his retirement in 1968, when the Houston team retired his jersey No. 43. Norton resided in Houston for 28 years and has been a highly-successful commercial real estate broker and developer for the past 20 years. Jim recently moved back to California and resides in Lancaster, continuing his business.
With his wife, Ginny, and five children to keep him busy, he still finds time to enjoy his great hobby of fishing. Norton still chuckles at the nickname given to him by Harry Missildine, former Spokane sports editor. So now we welcome with open arms "Flamingo" to the Idaho Hall of Fame.