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Norrils Keeps His Eye on the Prize By Mick Moninghoff

07/03/2018 4:24 AM -

July 3, 2018

Worcester, MA.

With four games remaining in the inaugural season of the Massachusetts Pirates no one could blame team members if they start thinking about a playoff run and a first ever National Arena League championship.  Then again, the results of last weeks’ games will serve as a reminder to take of today’s business and tomorrow will take care of itself.

Pirates’ defensive back Cheatham Norrils sees the big picture but narrows the view to ensure success.

”Our main focus is to go 1-0 each week, he said. “We don’t look to far ahead and we won’t look past anybody, but the main goal in the end is to win a championship so if we go 1-0 each week it’s a guarantee as to what will happen.”

For Norrils, this is his first taste of arena football.  Growing up in Toledo, Ohio he played his high school ball at St. John's Jesuit where he was a standout two way player being named the Toledo Blade “Player of the Year.” He caught 58 passes for 1,061 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior and the first team All-State selection finished his high school career with 17 interceptions.

He enrolled at the University of Toledo and in his second season was a third team All-Mid-American Conference Selection. After missing his entire junior year with an illness he came back in 2015 as a team captain and earned first team All-MAC honors posting 66 tackles and three interceptions. Those numbers earned him National Football League rookie mini-camp looks with Pittsburgh and New Orleans as an undrafted free agent.

Last season he spent time with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League, but again it was not long term. That led him to Worcester this season where he say’s changes to his game had to be made quickly.

“There were many but only having eight players on the field is a big adjustment.  It’s fast and teams can score points in many ways but we try to refrain from having anyone score on us.”

Still, Norrils has been able to find the end zone twice this season with a “pick-six” vs. Carolina and a fumble return for a touchdown vs. Columbus in a win at the DCU Center.

“That was a big play. I think we get put into positons to make plays and that was one of them especially set up by Serg (defensive backs coach Sergio Gilliam). I think I get along with him as a DB Coach.  Our defense as a whole has a lot to prove each week. We take a lot of pride in it. Making those plays when you have the opportunity to do so is pretty big.”

Gilliam say’s Norrils and the rest of the defensive backs have been great students which has led to success.

“I just want them to have fun, communicate and understand the game and how the players can help each other regarding the scheme. Once they watch film and understand the scheme they go out there and play and it becomes second nature. That’s when they can play fast.  It makes it easier on me when you have a great group of guys like we have in the back end.  They don’t complain. They come in ready to go to work and better themselves as a group and as individuals,” he said proudly.

Norrils, who is second on the team with 41 tackles has seen that teamwork payoff as the Pirates currently have 23 interceptions.

“Personally I think we jell pretty well on and off the field.  As a team I think we have a very good understanding of what to do and everybody here has a big chip on their shoulders and something to prove.  As players we are enjoying our time playing arena football right now and I think that’s helping us to develop. So I think it will translate to wherever we go next or even right now as we go throughout the season as we try to chase the championship.”

But where has he seen the biggest development in his game since he’s been with the Pirates?

“I would say just being more confident in my play because I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs in my career and I’m making the best of it by just being happy and able to play. I’m just trying to help the organization in my first year here and being my first time in arena football I need to make some noise as nobody really knew my name. People mess it up but I’m trying to make sure that nobody forgets who I am.”

Overall Norrils is enjoying his first season of arena football, yet he, like every player, hopes success with the Pirates will lead to more opportunities.

“Yes, it’s still professional ball and it’s a new experience as a first year player. It helps me grow on and off the field as a professional, as a man and I’m seeing what I can do outside of football by helping the community here.  This is another step for me. I’ll learn from it and appreciate the time I have because there are some people who wish they were in this position or wish they were still playing, so I’m just trying to take advantage of the time that I’m still able to play. If someone moves up to the next level it’s a good look for the organization. I’m all about helping us as a whole both on and off the field.” 

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2018 season are now available. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $60.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email contact@masspiratesfootball.com or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call Kara Mancini at 508-929-0125 or email kmancini@dcucenter.com. Follow the Pirates on facebook at facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.