Nearly a year to the day after Miles Norris’ 2016 hopes were crushed by a ruptured Achilles’ tendon sustained during preseason training, the middle linebacker saw his fifth-year senior season, and thereby career, end before it even started once again with an Achilles injury in the opposite heel during a practice last week.
The Cornell football linebacker injured his left Achilles in practice on Aug. 21, a source with knowledge of the situation told The Sun, and Norris posted on Instagram days later to confirm the news that his football career has come to an end.
“Before I lost my first tooth, I had already fallen in love with football,” Norris wrote in the post on Instagram. “My career officially ended on Aug. 21st, and I can say with certainty and honor that I played until I physically could not continue.”
This season, Norris would have brought to the field a resume that boasts 134 tackles — including 11 for losses — 5.5 sacks, totaling a loss of 33 yards, and two forced-fumbles on top of a memorable blocked punt his freshman year, which was recovered for a touchdown and helped the team end the 2013 season with a dramatic win over Penn.
The Baltimore native was slated to reunite with a rejuvenated Cornell program that is coming off its most successful season under head coach David Archer ’05. The team’s four wins last season, which Norris watched from the sidelines, nearly matched the total amount of victories he notched (5) in his three seasons suiting up.
But one area that remained a weakness in a season that featured glimpses of promise was on the defensive side of the ball. Despite a scoring offense ranked in the top four in the league, the Red finished last in the league in both total defense and rushing defense, and second to last in scoring defense — key holes which Norris would have helped to plug this upcoming season.
“I’m heartbroken for Miles, who has given so much to Big Red football and the Cornell community,” his coach and mentor Archer told The Sun. “Though we’ll miss his intelligence and fire on the field, he has instilled his spirit and leadership in the younger players, and his influence over our program will last for years to come.”
“What makes [his injury] especially tough to stomach is the fact that Miles prepares for everything he does harder than anyone I know,” added Jackson Weber ’17, a former Red linebacker who sees Norris like a brother. “Moving forward, it’s that unmatched work ethic that will propel Miles to success in whatever he takes on.”
While Norris has provided fans plenty to remember on the field — the Penn punt block, eight tackles and a forced fumble in the team’s sole 2015 win and leading the program in tackles and sacks the year prior — it is his lead-by-example presence that will surely be missed most.
Highlighted by his selection as a rare three-time captain, joining Jeff Mathews ’14 as only the second to do so in the program’s 130-year history, Norris has been the clear vocal leader in the locker room, even when he was not taking snaps.
“I told the team you don’t have to re-vote him as a captain … he has re-set the standard of what that title actually means,” Archer recently said to Cornell Big Red.
While Norris could theoretically use his final year of eligibility elsewhere, those close to him say he does not feel it is worth it unless he is playing for Cornell.
“Over the last few days, I’ve had the chance to briefly reflect on my career and to allow my emotions to run their course,” Norris added in his Instagram post. “Fortunately, regret is not one of the sentiments bouncing around between my ears. Football helped to foster many of my greatest relationships and taught me invaluable lessons over the years. I am grateful to have played. On to the next phase.”