Before Ken Norton Jr. became a key part of the San Francisco 49ers‘ last Super Bowl winning team of 1994, he starred at linebacker at UCLA under future 49ers director of player personnel and general manager Terry Donahue.
Now, Norton Jr. is soon to be returning to his alma mater.
ALL the latest 49ers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on 49ers newsletter here!
First reported by Bruce Feldman of The Athletic on Friday, February 24, the Ex-49ers linebacker is in the process of joining the Bruins’ staff as their linebackers coach.
It’s not just a college homecoming for the longtime NFL mind Norton Jr., who has been in the league as a player and coordinator with his last coaching stop with the Seattle Seahawks. But he adds to the past 49ers representation down in Westwood.
Norton to Work With Former 49ers Head Coach
Norton’s new football boss? Former 49ers head coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly will be entering his fifth season with the Bruins, where he’s gone 18-25 but put together their first season of finishing above .500 (8-4 mark) this past season.
The 58-year-old Kelly’s last head coaching job before taking over at UCLA? The 49ers.
His 49er teams, though, were met with subpar results: Finishing 2-14 in his worst coaching season regardless of whether he coached at the college level or pro. Kelly only lasted one season in the Bay Area and was ultimately fired.
Since then, his successor Kyle Shanahan has gone 43-44 overall from 2017 to 2021 with one NFC West title, one conference championship and two appearances in the NFC championship game.
On Norton’s end, 49er fans will recall his presence on a 49ers defense that featured future Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee Bryant Young and Deion Sanders. Norton also went to two of his three Pro Bowls as a 49er in 1995 and 1997. He spent his final seven seasons in the league with the 49ers, tallying 693 tackles including 549 solo stops and 16 tackles for a loss according to Pro Football Reference.
Norton will be heading to a UCLA defensive staff undergoing a transition period. Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro, who worked with Kelly on the 49ers in 2016, resigned back on January 12, 2021. Former linebackers coach Don Pellum is reportedly retiring per L.A. Times UCLA reporter Ben Bolch.
Bill McGovern, formerly of the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, is now the Bruins’ defensive coordinator.
But Norton will also soon join a coaching staff with another former 49er but on the opposite side of the field: Running backs coach DeShaun Foster, who played his final NFL season with the franchise and managed two starts with 234 total rushing yards according to PFR.
Norton Was Thought of as a Possible 49ers Hire
There was the eavesdrop of Norton’s name as a possibility in joining the 49ers.
Mentioned in this Heavy on 49ers story, Norton was considered a possible replacement for James Bettcher, who left the ‘Niners to join the Cincinnati Bengals’ staff as their linebackers coach. Jack Hammer of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat informed 49er fans to keep an eye out for the former 49ers linebacker.
But now, Bettcher’s old post still remains untaken. And Norton is adding to the past 49ers representation near Pasadena.