The NFL’s highest-paid cornerback stood shirtless and ripped, wearing a pair of electric-blue harem pants. It was a Tuesday evening, and Josh Norman was taking a break from his duties as one of DC’s biggest sports stars to spend an hour in a Leesburg dance studio, where he was rehearsing for his role as the Arabian Prince in the Loudoun Ballet Performing Arts Company’s production of The Nutcracker (Norman performed in support of his Starz24 youth foundation). He looked surprisingly at ease as he ran through the routine.
Part of the credit surely went to Norman’s dance partner, a Wakefield School junior named Lauren Bacchus, who has studied ballet for 12 years and practices 25 hours a week. The football star’s only previous experience came as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars; still, he basically aced it. “Teamwork makes the dreamwork,” he said after effortlessly hoisting Bacchus over his shoulder. Artistic director Lisa Startsman, who was guiding them through the sequence, seemed impressed. “We’re used to guys who aren’t as strong,” she said.
Not that it was easy. “When you think of ballet, you think of soft melodies, the grace and balance,” Norman said after he finished the evening’s stretching and twirling. “This is hard work, man.” He then mentioned his infamous feud with flamboyant New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.: “I made fun of him for doing all those spins and celebration dances. Now look at me.”
That tiff is ancient news, of course. Lately, a different controversy has had Norman in the headlines: his ill-advised trashing of Washington football fans for not, in his view, being supportive enough at home games. So given all the drama surrounding his football gig, perhaps Norman is considering a new career onstage?
Well, no. After all, even if he were willing to ditch that $75-million contract, fans would be just as mad about his quitting the NFL as anything else he does. “I’d be having all kinds of mail,” he said. “Just as much as I got now.”
This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Washingtonian.