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Ferrum football loses a legend

Longtime Panthers football coach Hank Norton died at 91

FERRUM, Va. – Ferrum lost a legend Wednesday night as former football coach Hank Norton died at the age of 91.

Even before you step on Ferrum College's campus, you hear his name. 

"You rode up Hank Norton Highway. You're in the Hank Norton Athletic Facility. We have a Hank Norton Press Box right outside this facility. He's meant everything to Ferrum College and our athletic department," said Ferrum College Director of Athletics Abe Naff.

Norton coached the Panthers from 1960-1993 and led them to four junior college national championships. His 244-77-11 overall career record is one of the best in college football. His accomplishments even got the attention of President Bill Clinton, who sent a letter to congratulate him.

"That's the kind of person he was. He reached out to so many people all over the United States. When we were Junior College all the Division 1's would call in here on our players, but they would also want Coach Norton's advice on how to run the option, how to defend the option," said Naff.

Norton's contributions to Ferrum go beyond the football field. He impacted countless athletes and was a pillar in the community. 

"Please don't think that he was just a football coach. He was a conservationist and environmentalist, a great fly fisherman and he cared about all of those things. And another love he has was Franklin County. He loved this place," added Naff.

Norton touched the lives of many athletes and coaches. Even after retirement he remained close to the Ferrum football program.

"My time with him was after I got to Ferrum. I certainly knew a ton about coach and his legacy. Anybody that's involved in football in the state of Virginia knew who Hank Norton was.
Until I was hired here as a coach I hadn't gotten the chance to meet him. Had a chance when I was hired, someone asked me, I said 'I drove in on Hank Norton highway, I walked into the Hank Norton Center. I said my first duty is to meet Hank Norton,'" said Panthers head football coach Rob Grande.
 
While Norton will no longer be walking around campus, his memory lives on. Not just in highways and buildings, but in the hearts of so many.