Former UM and Dolphins player Kendrick Norton loses arm in serious auto accident
Three weeks ago, Kendrick Norton posted a smiley photo of himself to social media with a caption that captured the overwhelming feeling of realizing one’s dreams.
After falling to the final round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the former University of Miami standout defensive tackle was signed by the Miami Dolphins in December and was in a position to compete for a spot on the team’s 53-man roster.
“God bless the boy turned provider,” Norton, 22, wrote.
More than 3,500 comments sit just below the photo, but since Thursday, the words of praise have largely been phased out by notes of sadness and emojis of clasped hands in prayer for the young athlete who lost his arm in a car wreck on the Dolphin Expressway early Thursday morning.
Fellow players and fans also offered an outpouring of hopeful messages to Norton, who remains at Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital with injuries that are serious, but not life-threatening.
“Prayers Fam!” commented Dolphins teammate Maurice Smith II. “GOD got you.”
“Arm just a limb when you got the heart of a lion,” a fan remarked.
“Theres a different path for your life and I’m sure it’ll be inspirational,” another said.
Several former teammates and coaches from UM visited him Thursday and offered up their warm thoughts on social media.
“The U family is praying for Kendrick, his family and the medical professionals helping him this morning,” wrote UM head football coach Manny Diaz on Twitter.
“Was sorry to hear about Kendrick Norton’s accident,” said former UM head football coach Mark Richt. “Prayers from the Richt family. God bless!”
The Florida Highway Patrol said Norton’s 2017 Ford F-250 had been heading west on the Dolphin Expressway at 1:18 a.m. when it hit a concrete barrier near the Palmetto Expressway. The truck flipped onto its roof.
FHP said a 30-year-old driver, Jessie Pena, in a Maserati was involved in the crash but was not injured. The agency is investigating the crash and did not provide additional information Friday.
Norton’s agent, Malki Kawa, said Norton would release a statement at a later date and declined to comment further.
A family friend of Norton’s said his vehicle got cut off before it flipped.
Norton was expected to undergo surgery around the arm on Friday. He sustained cuts to his head, but the injuries are not considered life-threatening. His girlfriend, who was in the car with him during the crash, received a hand injury.
As defensive linemen, players like Norton make their bones using their arms to power through or “swim” around offensive lineman and wrap up the opposing team’s quarterback or running back. His career is likely over, although his team has not officially declared that.
The only one-handed player drafted in modern NFL history is former University of Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin, and his amputation — brought about by a congenital birth defect — stops short of his forearm.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, a native of South Florida, lost one of his fingers in a fireworks accident in Deerfield Beach in 2015.
Norton’s mother, Tess Stephens, thanked the public for “all the love & support” they have received in a post on Facebook. She said she was confident her son would make it through the injury and move on with his life.
“KJ is a fighter!! And he will fight through this!” she said. “Yes he did lose his arm but he’s got his life! We ask for respect and privacy during this time for him to heal and grieve for what he has lost so that he can get up and fight for all the many blessings he still has and WILL have!”