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Norwood brothers 'want it bad ... get it done'

Eric Norwood
Eric Norwood

Eric Norwood came across the Williams-Brice Stadium field after USC's 2007 game against S.C. State looking for Buddy Pough. He had something he needed to ask the S.C. State coach.

"I had never met him," Pough said. "He found me and said, 'Coach, I've got a brother I want to see if you can help.'"

That was the first time Pough had ever heard the name of Norwood's younger brother, Erin.

"From that point on, I got to know everybody in the family," Pough said.

Two years later, when the Bulldogs return to Williams-Brice on Saturday night for the second meeting between the schools, Pough couldn't be happier to have his own Norwood on the S.C. State sideline.

Erin, a redshirt sophomore and third-team safety, may not have the playing credentials of brother Eric, an All-SEC senior linebacker and USC's career leader in sacks, but Pough doesn't mind. He is pleased he could play a part in finding Erin a college home.

"Both of them are the nicest kids you ever saw. They've got great parents," Pough said. "They'll all charm you to death. There's nothing I wouldn't have done to help this kid."

The 6-foot-1, 252-pound Eric came out of North Cobb High in 2006 as a high-profile defender and found instant stardom with Steve Spurrier's team. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Erin finished a year later without the same sort of opportunity awaiting him. He backed out of going to one community college in Massachusetts, and he didn't make the team of another one in Mississippi.

He lived at home in Acworth, Ga., for a year, attended Chattahoochee Technical College and worked at Costco. But he wanted something more, especially while watching Eric excel at USC.

That's about the time Eric made his plea to Pough. However, it wasn't as simple as asking for a favor. Erin needed to get his academic situation in order to be able to join the Bulldogs as a player. So last year, he attended S.C. State without a football scholarship, unable to participate in the sport until he could make the grade.

"That's what he had to do," said Anna Norwood, their mother. "They had to see how dedicated he was and how bad he wanted it."

With his brother's example - as one who overcame being an indifferent high school student in academics - in front of him, Erin made it happen, something that has left Anna proud.

"He did it, same as Eric," she said. "If you want it bad enough, you get it done. They both have the determination and drive."

This year Erin is on a football scholarship and wearing No. 21 while playing on the kickoff return team for the Bulldogs. Although his playing time is limited, Pough sees promise.

"He's going to be a good little player," Pough said. "He just needs to keep working at it and get more experience."

And in one of those happy coincidences, he'll get a shot to square off against his brother. Eric opted not to enter the NFL draft last spring and returned for his final year at USC, where he is enjoying another spectacular season.

It's not likely they'll cross paths on the field unless it occurs on a USC kickoff, where Erin will be blocking for a Bulldog return man and Eric will be trying to bring him down.

"It's a possibility I might have to block him," Erin said.

So will he try to flatten Eric?

"I'll give it all I've got," Erin said, laughing.

Erin said his brother hadn't gotten on him too much about Saturday's game. He called Eric a humble guy who doesn't talk too much, except maybe to razz him about not playing much. Eric is thrilled for his brother.

"I'm very proud to see where he's at now," he said.

"It's a load lifted off to have both in school just 45 minutes from each other," Anna Norwood said. "Yes indeed, I love South Carolina. It has been good to me."

She's still not quite certain where she should sit Saturday.

"I'm sure my adrenaline will be flowing. I'm excited," she said.

Erin and Eric are criminal justice majors, and Eric is scheduled to graduate in December, a semester ahead of his class and in time to concentrate on the next NFL draft.

"I'm really proud of the fact he's going to graduate early," Erin said. "I look at him as a role model."

The role model offers this piece of advice to his younger brother:

"Apply yourself and don't take anything for granted."