I want to win every game, and if that means making tackles then that’s what it is, but it’s not like I go into every game thinking I’ve got to make this many tackles. If we win a game and I make two tackles, then I’ll be a happy guy. – Jared Norris
BOULDER, Colo. — Utah’s leading tackler resides in relative anonymity. However, linebacker Jared Norris doesn’t mind. He actually prefers it that way. It’s not why he plays football.
“I just don’t feel the need to be recognized,” Norris said. “I do it because I love the game, not because I want everybody’s attention.”
The junior is worthy of the spotlight, however. Norris enters Utah’s regular-season finale at Colorado on Saturday with 101 tackles — 22 more than anyone else on the team.
“He’s had a big impact on our team,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that Norris is one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12.
Besides his overall tackles total, Norris has made 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage — including four sacks. He also has a pass breakup.
Teammate Jason Fanaika said Norris is one of those guys that everyone counts on and rallies behind.
“He’s going to be able to pull through for us,” Fanaika said. “Everyone realizes that and everyone understands that.”
Norris has been a stabilizing force for the Utes at linebacker. Injuries have taken a toll at the position with Jacoby Hale, Uaea Masina, Jason Whittingham and Gionni Paul all missing action. Norris considers himself “just lucky, I guess” to have played in all 11 games.
“Nobody’s ever completely healthy when you get towards the end of the season but you do your best,” he said.
Norris downplays the revolving door that has existed at the other linebacker spots because of injury. He noted that the group is pretty close and works well together.
Fanaika credits Norris for helping him make a transition to linebacker from defensive end earlier in the season.
“He’s been right there with me trying to explain the ropes to me. Any questions I have I lean on Jared to answer them,” Fanaika said. “He’s been a great help and definitely not only to me but to the defense, making sure everybody knows where they’re supposed to be. He’s very intelligent and smart when it comes to the game of football.”
For much of the season, Whittingham has maintained that Norris and sophomore Hunter Dimick (10 sacks) are two of most underrated defensive players in the conference.
“Jared’s made a ton of plays for us. He’s reliable. He’s there every week and Hunter’s the same way,” Whittingham said. “So both those guys have been instrumental to our defensive success.”
Norris and Dimick are roommates.
“We’re real close and always give each other crap most of the time,” said Norris, who added that they also take a low-key approach to the spotlight. “We kind of try not to say much and let our play do the talking. It’s kind of more quiet spoken, I guess you would say.”
Norris explained that he and Dimick are just “grind-it-out football type of guys” who don’t complain about much.
“I’m kind of used to just sitting back and just being a guy who does his job, even in high school,” said Norris, who played his prep ball with current USC quarterback Cody Kessler in Bakersfield, California. Accolades, such as being Utah’s tackles leader, don’t mean much to Norris.
“I’m proud of it but then again it’s not something I think about,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was like a thing.”
What Norris really appreciates is victories — and lots of them.
“I want to win every game, and if that means making tackles then that’s what it is,” he said. “But it’s not like I go into every game thinking I’ve got to make this many tackles. If we win a game and I make two tackles, then I’ll be a happy guy.”
Norris is enjoying the best of both worlds this season. He’s making a lot of plays and the Utes are in the midst of their first winning season since 2011.
“It’s been an amazing ride and I’ve had a lot of fun,” Norris said. “That’s a huge accomplishment, especially for a bunch of the guys who haven’t been to a bowl game in two years. So we’re all real happy about it.”
The journey has been so rewarding, in fact, that Norris is even dealing well with putting a great passion of his on hold.
“Skateboarding is my first love,” he said. “But she can wait for a little while.”