Josh Norman on fulfilling his purpose and taking his charity work global

In one photo on social media, Josh Norman is pictured at a family-run Ethiopian restaurant, the son of which expresses his gratitude for the cornerback’s business, while in another further down the timeline he is being bear-hugged by a pupil while visiting Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Virginia. 

The NFL veteran’s fierce approach on the field is coincided by natural and selfless gusto for helping others away from it, be it in his hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina or in the surrounding areas of the three teams he has played for since entering the league. He deems making a difference his ‘purpose’.

Upon being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2012, Norman came to learn that his childhood neighbourhood had accumulated the highest murder rate in South Carolina. That wasn’t the Greenwood he knew and so he sought to create change, establishing his Starz24 non-profit foundation in view of guiding children along the right path by staging community events and providing valuable life skills and lessons.

By investing in and empowering our youth, we can give them the tools for a limitless future. – @J_No24 #STARZ24 #STARZ24TeenCenter #empowerOurYouth pic.twitter.com/OnMBxXgY3Q

“Impact and change is what we’re all about,” Norman told Sky Sports. “Giving back, I like to say, is our purpose in life. What is your purpose? You say to yourself ‘man, I sold all out for this one thing and that’s giving back to from where I came and bringing people back to the kingdom’. This is what it’s all about.

“What you do for others lasts a lifetime, an eternity, so that’s why I try to press towards that mark. Whatever else that comes with we’ll deal with that when it happens, but until then this is what I am and what I’m going to try and do and try and be master connector of people.

“I think that’s a thing you’re born with, you have it, and that thing called empathy, and I think we have that.”

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Norman’s foundation has funded over 150 programmes and donated over $3.5m to youth organisations and not-for-profits, including aid for Mexico City following an earthquake, a $100,000 donation to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and a $60,000 grant to a STEM school that had suffered a fire two weeks before the new school year.

STARZ24 also introduced the Buffalo Business Blitz fund during Norman’s 2020 season with the Bills in order to supply financial relief to small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And this year he fulfilled a long-term ambition as he launched the Starz24 Teen Center in Greenwood in partnership with the Boys & Girls club, offering youth a safe environment in which to attend after-school activities and spend their summers expanding their education or taking part in sports.

The ribbon has been cut ✂️ and our @J_No24 #STARZ24TeenCenter is officially open.

Thank you to everyone who came out and to all of the incredible people who helped make this possible.

We’re looking forward to welcoming the Greenwood [email protected] #STARZ24 pic.twitter.com/9rfi2UiE6V

“I started 10 years ago man, it’s truly a blessing I was able to get through to it,” said Norman. “Things that started in my neighbourhood and where I was from wasn’t as if when I was living there. One thing led to another and God spoke to me and told me to move and I moved and we came up with Stars24, the stars being the kids backed by me and we’ve just kept this thing moving.

“10 years later here we are with a teen center and that was just truly amazing for everything we went through, putting on events year after year and then now having a teen center and building relationships from that.”

Besides aiming to move the Teen Center from state to state as a means of assisting more communities, Norman has also cast an eye towards the foundation’s potential on an international scale.

“I know we have Football for Peace coming onboard as well and then you look at it from a standpoint of how that affects people and those movements and how everything happens in that space internationally,” he continued.

“You look at Haiti, there could be opportunity there, and then we was in Puerto Rico a couple of years ago and we went back there to see how that place is going. And now newly Africa, Djibouti, has just been put on the map for us so that could be something we look at. We look at it from a standpoint of how we’ve doing taking this thing international and affecting lives over different countries and that’s truly a blessing.”

The Teen Center, which Norman helped raise $1.3m to build, will host programmes in science, technology, engineering, arts and math, and features a technology center, a recording studio, an art studio, a cafe and a game room.

It also includes a gym and gives children an open and secure space to exercise and play sports in the hope of improving relations and steering them away from trouble on the streets.

“Being at one with nature, I think that’s what we added a long, giving them that outlet to express themselves freely and give them some exercise to go with that,” explained Norman. “Everybody needs something, everybody needs to run, we’re all built differently, you need that outdoors to mould and craft who you want to be.

“I think that goes with part of those programmes that we’re going to have as well which is truly amazing to how all of this is going to work out.

“I’m just going to sit on the board, everybody else can take it and run with it and let their ideas flow and I’m just truly blessed to have people who are smarter than me run it and do all these things.

“I’m just so grateful for it and the team that we have and couldn’t give more props or credit to those guys for establishing and keeping this thing going.”

Norman’s future is yet to be decided after he became a free agent on the back of reaching last season’s AFC Championship game with the Bills.

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