Tre Norwood knew what was next when he got his degree.
Norwood’s decision to enter the NFL Draft after graduating from the University of Oklahoma paid off on Saturday when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 245th overall pick, No. 18 in the seventh round.
“Got my degree at the end of 2020, so I knew I wouldn’t have to have any school priorities preparing for this,” Norwood said last month at his pro day in Norman.
Norwood said he went into the 2020 season not thinking of the NFL Draft, but rather on improving the Sooners’ takeaways and winning another Big 12 Championship.
“My mindset was not on leaving,” Norwood said. “My mindset was on doing what’s best for the team and winning a championship. And then throughout the season, I knew — actually, I knew going into the season as well that if I met my individual goals, that would go into my decision.”
Norwood joins teammate Tre Brown, who went in the fourth round (No. 132 overall) to Seattle. They came in together as freshmen, broke into the starting lineup in the same game, and entered the draft in the same class.
It’s the first time since 2011 the Sooners have had two defensive backs picked in the same draft. That year it was safeties Quentin Carter (fourth round) and Jonathan Nelson (seventh round). In all, the Sooners had three defensive players taken in this year’s draft, along with defensive end Ronnie Perkins’ pick by the Patriots, for the first time since 2016.
Norwood’s career, redshirt junior season and decision to leave, were “very interesting,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said.
“You talk about a guy that’s played all the different secondary positions for us,” Riley said, “a guy that’s started at corner and then moved over into that safety and nickel role this year. I think the scouts are very impressed with his versatility.”
Norwood’s 2019 season was wiped out by a preseason ACL injury, and it was a long road back. But by midseason of the 2020 season, he had supplanted Brendan Radley-Hiles as the starter at nickel and ended up ranked third in the nation with five interceptions.
Pittsburgh got a player who’s smart, versatile and on an upward trajectory.
“I think everybody is excited to see as he continues to get further and further away from the knee injury he had that in the (fall) of 2019,” Riley said, “ … he continued to get more healthy and more confident, get his feet back underneath him and get used to being back on the field, he played better and better.
“I think he really settled into coach (Alex) Grinch’s defense and did a lot of outstanding things. I was always impressed by Tre’s work ethic and consistency and I think what’s also going to help him in the NFL is the ability to play multiple positions.”
That, Norwood said, has become his calling card.
“I feel like that’s one of the things that separates me from a lot of guys, being that I’m not one dimensional,” Norwood said. “I’m a guy that can line up at outside corner, I can line up at slot corner, strong safety, free safety, anywhere on the back end. And not just line up, but I can play any one of those positions at a high level. I’m a heady guy, outstanding IQ for the game, just the feel for the game that I have, I feel that separates me.”
“Tre,” said Riley, “is one of those guys that is just pretty good at everything.”