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Josh Norman doesn't regret decision to gamble on himself

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Your boss comes to you with an offer of a raise of around $6 million. You say thank you, but no thanks, let’s talk in six or seven months.

You’re gambling that you’ll perform, that you won’t get injured.

This was Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman before the 2015 season. He told management he would play out his contract -- $1.59 million in 2015 -- because he deserved to be paid among the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

He wasn’t ready to cash in for $7 million and change a year to give Carolina a bargain when the market for top corners was well over $10 million a year.

That says everything about Norman.

“Because from day one I’ve always been cashing in on myself,’’ Norman said as he prepares for Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos. “If you don’t cash in on yourself, who is going to do it for you? If you don’t think you’re doing your job, who’s going to do it for you?"

Norman didn’t consider his decision a gamble because he believed in himself.

He backed that up with a performance that resulted in him being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

After the Super Bowl, he will cash that in with a contract that could earn him between $12 million and $14 million a year.

Whether that’s with the Panthers remains to be seen. Norman would like to remain at Carolina, about 90 miles from where he grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina, and three hours from where he attended college at Coastal Carolina.

But ultimately he’ll do what’s best for him.

“It was not a hard decision," Norman said of turning down Carolina’s offer before the season. “I know myself and who I was."

A Super Bowl ring would enhance Norman’s value even more, but he’s not thinking about value at the moment. His focus is making sure Peyton Manning doesn’t embarrass him in what could be the future Hall of Famer’s final game.

“We set ourselves up pretty well for where we’re at right now," Norman said.

Secondary coach Steve Wilks doesn’t know how many players would have turned down the money Norman did. But he appreciates the message it sent.

“No. 1, he’s very confident in his ability, which he should be," Wilks said. “He’s a very talented young man with a great skill set. Everybody says he was trying to gamble on himself. I think he just believed in himself."

Wilks doesn’t expect Norman to change when he gets his big payday.

“I always say money doesn’t change you. It just makes you more of who you are," Wilks said. “You see guys get the big payday and people say they change. To me, they’re already that individual. They’re just that individual with more money."

Norman has been generous with the money he has. He donated $10,000 to six churches in the Greenwood area before Christmas. He donated another $10,000 to a childhood friend who was dealing with cancer that recently took his life.

Norman is more grounded than people give him credit for when they see him talk about his alter ego, "Batman" and "The Dark Knight."

“He loves the camera. He loves the microphone," Wilks said. “But he's a very solid individual, starting with his parents. And he's a hard, dedicated worker."

And when it was time to gamble on his future, Norman bet on himself.

"Because," Norman said, "ain’t nobody going to think no higher of me than I think of myself."