Josh Norman dedicated Panthers' game to friend who lost cancer fight

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman was playing for more than the right to go to the NFC title game on Sunday.

He was playing for a childhood friend.

Andre Day, 28, died last week after battling cancer for five years. Norman attended the funeral in their hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina, where they grew up doing everything together from middle school on.

Norman recently donated $10,000 to help with Day's hospital expenses. It was the same amount he donated to six churches in the Greenwood area.

"I just wanted him in the same category of the churches because of his fight for this long and his perseverance in the face of annihilation," Norman said. "I know that can be costly, and when I had a chance to do something I wanted to in a big way for him."

Norman has delivered in a big way for the Panthers all season. Opposing quarterbacks had a 54.0 passer rating against him during the regular season, the lowest among cornerbacks in the NFL. He made his first Pro Bowl. He is set to be paid among the elite cornerbacks in the NFL when he becomes a free agent after the season.

But Sunday's 31-24 victory over Seattle was all about two things: getting to the NFC Championship Game against Arizona and playing for Day.

Norman was in such a good mood afterward that he wasn't down on himself for allowing a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to get over his fingertips and into the hands of Jermaine Kearse with 6:04 remaining.

"Talk about a game of inches,” Norman said. "I'm not even mad. That's crazy because usually I'd be so ... I'm not. There was nothing physical that happened. I was up there forever.

"I jumped too soon and I've got to work on that. I can't be so anxious to go at it at its highest point. I've got to be lax and let the play come to me. That's what happens when you're aggressive. Those plays happen one out of 10 times."

Norman's biggest play was a sack in the third quarter. He freelanced and left running back Marshawn Lynch to slam Wilson for a 14-yard loss.

"At some point in time you've just got to be relentless," Norman said. "You've got to say bump it. Got to go rogue. Just go rogue one time for the heck of it. I was so happy it worked out for me."

But most of all Norman was happy the Panthers were able to win a game he dedicated to Day and move on.