This year, Norris has been moved to the nickel position - a hybrid of sorts between playing corner and linebacker
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As work continues at Fresno State's Fall camp, the defense says its aim is to be among the best units in the nation.
"We're out here to make a statement, prove that Fresno State is up there with those top schools and put us on the map even more than we already did," says Morice Norris Jr.
Norris is coming off his first season as a Bulldog - a Sanger grad who helped last year's team go from 1-4 to 10-4 and conference champs.
"We really didn't know a whole lot about Morice," says Fresno State Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle. "He was playing corner and doing some good things, but we were trying to figure out where his best spot would be."
This year, that's meant moving him to the nickel position - a hybrid of sorts between playing corner and linebacker.
"It requires him to do a lot of different jobs," Coyle said. "It's a very versatile position."
Being versatile is something Norris has learned to do both on and off the field.
"I didn't really have the easiest path to get here, but Fresno State welcomed me back with open arms," he said. "Brought me back to my hometown."
The Sanger grad grew up playing basketball but was recruited to play football by fellow Apaches Jalen Moreno-Cropper and Arron Mosby.
After setting records at Sanger, Norris went to Orange Cove College, where he tore an ACL and lived in a house with six other players.
"I really went through some trials there," he said. "A lot of dark moments where I just wanted to go home and give it up."
From Orange County to Las Cruces, Norris was given a preferred walk-on spot at New Mexico State. But in June of 2021, the coaching staff changed their mind, leaving him with nowhere to play.
"I've never been a quitter, so I kept my head up, I looked for the next opportunity to showcase my talents," he said.
That opportunity came from corners coach JD Williams, who shared news of a prospect camp. Packing his things and driving 15 hours through the night, nearly 1,000 miles, Norris made the camp, made the team and is now looking to make his mark on his hometown team.
"Always in the back of my mind, I felt like this was the place I was supposed to be, but I kept trying to run from it," Norris said.
It's a return home that allowed him to share this with his mom, Francina.
"It means everything to play here," he said. "My family comes to watch me, I'm at home with my mom every day, every other day. It feels good to have my family members come out and support me the way that they do."