SGV Tribune

Chargers sign former XFL standouts Storm Norton, Donald Parham Jr.

Norton says time with Vikings helped him learn he could play at the NFL level

Storm Norton’s end goal for joining the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats was to get another opportunity in the NFL, but he didn’t want to know if he was gaining interest.

Norton told the Wildcats’ staff not to inform him of NFL scouts attending games.

“I really didn’t want to know,” Norton said Tuesday in a phone interview with the Southern California News Group. “I wanted to go in there with a chip on my shoulder, play my game and focus on each game.”

Norton still doesn’t know if any NFL scouts attended his five games with the Wildcats. But when word got out of a 6-foot-7 athletic left tackle dominating pass rushers, NFL scouts likely went running to see Norton live.

The Chargers probably made the drive to Carson to watch Norton and Wildcats play at Dignity Health Sports Park, and it’s highly likely they attended the home opener against the Dallas Renegades on Feb. 16. The Chargers signed two players from that game, one being Norton and the other Donald Parham Jr., the former Renegades tight end.

“It’s amazing,” Norton said about signing his two-year deal with the Chargers on Tuesday. “That was my end goal going to the XFL. I reached that step of where I wanted to get, and now I get to start all over and the work begins, and I get to reach new heights.”

Norton, 25, and Parham, 22, were regarded as two of the best players from the short-lived league, and the Chargers were able to land both, but not without competition.

Norton said it came down to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chargers. Parham had interest from at least five other teams, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Parham was on the Washington Redskins’ practice squad as a lankly tight end in 2019 before breaking out as a bulky 6-foot-8 athletic force in the XFL. Parham led XFL tight ends in receptions (24), receiving yards (307) and touchdowns (four).

Parham was targeted 11 times and recorded five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in the 25-18 win against Norton’s Wildcats.

“He’s a big boy,” Norton said of Parham. “He had a pretty good game against us. I was keeping tabs watching other (XFL) games and he definitely stood out to me.”

Norton said he chose the Chargers because they showed the most interest and gave him the best opportunity to earn a spot on the final roster. The Chargers have an opening at left tackle after trading Russell Okung to the Carolina Panthers for right guard Trai Turner.

The Toledo, Ohio, native will get to compete with offensive tackles Trey Pipkins, Trent Scott and Sam Tevi. The Chargers could also add another offensive tackle in next week’s NFL draft.

Norton said he’s most comfortable playing left tackle, but contributed as a swing tackle for the Minnesota Vikings on their practice squad the past two seasons.

“I think I improved on my consistency whether that’s either pass (situations) or run game,” Norton said about his time in the XFL. “I think that was something I really struggled with early on and just getting reps. I had been a few years since I really consistently played full games, and playing five full games, getting a lot more tape out there, showing what I can do, I think that really helped me for the better, and it got me in great football shape.”

Norton didn’t want to know about NFL scouts attending his games because he wanted to keep the same intensity. He was waived multiple times by the Vikings and was also released by the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions, who signed Norton as an undrafted rookie from Toledo in 2017.

The rejection fueled him, but he also knew he belonged in the NFL because he held his own against the Vikings’ vaunted defensive line that featured Pro Bowlers Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph, who signed with the Chargers in free agency.

“I was fortunate enough to go against them every day and practice with them,” Norton said. “They made me way better as a player, which I’m grateful for. … I used that as momentum (in the XFL). I knew I had gone against some of the best players in the world … just knowing I can play with those top level guys.

“Those are some studs, and not every rep was pretty, I’ll tell you that, but they definitely made me better.”

Norton will now get to face Chargers pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in practices, but that will have to wait because of current circumstances.

Norton and his family have been social distancing at their new home in Perrysburg, Ohio. He’s been doing work around the house and spending time with his 2-year-old son, Ryker.

“I’ve kinda become a little handyman,” Norton said.

Eventually, he’ll get to do work for the Chargers, but Norton is aiming for much more than practice-squad success this time around.