Change does Alex Norman good

DALLAS -- There were two larger Under Armour All-America Game jerseys available for Dallas Bishop Dunne defensive tackle Alex Norman to wear at his jersey presentation on Thursday.

He didn't even bother trying them on.

Four years ago, as a 6-foot-1, 330-pound freshman, Norman wouldn't have had any choice but to take the largest jersey available. And there's no guarantee that it would have fit him either.

"I was like an NFL lineman and I was only a freshman," Norman said, shaking his head.

But now, after years of reshaping his life and body, Norman, who checks in at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, opted for the smaller choice in jersey with a gleaming smile on his face. He wore it proudly in front of an auditorium full of classmates, teammates and family. It was part of the 80-stop American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour.

"It's been extremely hard losing the weight," he said. "But hard work is a part of me now. I made it a part of my life."

Truth be told, Norman probably wouldn't have been in a position to pick out an Under Armour All-America jersey had he not transformed his body into what it was now. He was so slow off the ball his freshman year he seldom made a play.

For as big as he was, he could only bench 135 pounds.

"It was ridiculous," Norman said. "I was embarrassed in how I looked and played. My granddad was a famous Dallas Cowboy and I couldn't let that fly."

Pettis Norman, Alex's granddad and former tight end with the Cowboys and San Diego Chargers, never pushed his grandson to play the sport he became famous for. He didn't want Alex to feel obligated to play just because he did.

But when Alex approached him about playing the sport in ninth grade, after showing promise in basketball, Pettis bluntly told him that if he wanted to do so effectively he had to lose weight.

"His weight was out of proportion," Pettis said. "So we talked about the discipline of eating. Then I told him he had to get himself into good shape and train hard. He had to develop quickness. So I took them through those steps. He got on the program himself, lost all that weight and the skills just began to come out."

Part of that program involved staying away from the fast food products that Alex had grown accustomed to.

"It was hard because my mom had a busy schedule and would always pick up fast food. That's what I grew up on," Alex said. "When I started living with my grandparents [about a year ago] I had to stop. They cooked me stuff at home. Now I don't even want that fast food."

Norman also dedicated himself to the weight room. That 135-pound bench press as a freshman has turned into 315 pounds now.

"You don't have to be the heaviest to be the strongest," Alex said.

His healthy eating habits and frequent visits to the gym have turned Norman into a four-star prospect who is rated as the No. 6 defensive tackle and No. 88 overall prospect.

Texas took notice of his newfound dominance and offered him a scholarship after one of its junior days, which he accepted on Feb. 12. He's one of 10 Longhorns commitments that will play in the game on Jan. 5, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"I could remember when he was a sophomore and he said 'Coach I want to go to the University of Texas,' Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson said. "He weighed 340-something pounds and didn't make a play his freshman year. I told him if he wanted to do that he would have to cut down on his weight and stay on his books because they weren't going to just take anybody.

"Through hard work and dedication his dream became a reality. So it's not about what we did, it's about what Alex did. He is one of the hardest workers I've ever been around."

And now he's an Under Armour All-American.

"Ever since I first saw the game I wanted to be one,"Norman said. "People said I couldn't because I went to Bishop Dunne. But I'm here now."

William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation. Follow HornsNation's coverage on Twitter: @ESPNHornsNation.