Mikel had been an assistant under Norris, Fort Walton Beach’s first football coach, and had many fond memories. Now the two were united by the most prestigious Hall-of-Fame on the Emerald Coast.
Friends, colleagues, teammates, family, players, and coaches gathered Wednesday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center to honor the pair at the annual Hall-of-Fame luncheon.
Laughs were had, plenty of them. Stories were shared. Bread was broken.
The talent in the room overflowed. The egos did not.
“I spent all this money on my hair and my mouth won’t work,” Norris said during his speech.
He was joking, of course, as he spent time spreading thanks among his wife, Barbara, family, staff, players, friends and the All Sports Association.
Norris had more than earned the spotlight.
The 1959 graduate of Choctaw came back to the Emerald Coast in 1969 to build the Fort Walton Beach program from the ground up. But there were few growing pains over his nine seasons from 1969-1977.
Norris finished 61-27, including Fort Walton Beach’s first Big 5 Conference title in 1974 amid a 7-3 campaign. He finished with a winning record over crosstown rival Choctaw and in 1975 his Vikings were invited to the first High School Florida Bowl in Gainesville.
Notable names like Ronnie Enclave (FSU), Bobby Mikel (Alabama) and the Southern Miss quartet of Amos Fowler (Detroit Lions), Cliff Lewis (Green Bay Packers), Dane McDaniel and Dale Fife played under his tutelage.
Lewis, an All Sports Association HOF inductee last year, was on hand to introduce Norris.
“There’s two men in my life I wanted to impress most — my dad and coach Norris,” Lewis said. “He used to say, ‘Men, there ain’t no free lunch.’ He didn’t talk about winning or losing, but effort.”
Mikel, meanwhile, was introduced by Wuerffel Trophy Executive Director Tom Brassell, who said “not only is he a great athlete, but he’s an incredible human being.“z
Mikel, the ASA’s president in 1990, was a star at Choctaw and an even bigger name at the University of Southern Miss.
Mikel, who couldn’t start until he was a sophomore, still holds the USM record for career pass receptions (94) and is fifth with 1,314 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, only two players in USM history have averaged more catches per game than his 3.24.
His best season came as a junior when he caught 47 passes for 774 yards and a then-school record nine touchdowns.
“I’d love to play for offenses today where they spread everything out,” Mikel joked.
He finished his speech by going over the three P’s he tries to live his life by: Be prepared, priorities and people.
He used his dad for the “be prepared” example, regaling about odd jobs and college trips where his dad never handed anything to him.
He used his mom for the “priorities” example, talking about more than the Hall-of-Fame induction into USM, she valued that he was the first Mikel in the family to graduate college.
Then he name-dropped for his last P, referencing Bradshaw and Manning and Holtz as people who rolled out of bed every morning and put their shoes on one foot at a time like everybody else.
Of course he’s long reached the level of being a personality people name-drop. As has Norris, the duo the latest to join a lauded list of the Emerald Coast’s best.