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Panthers draft Andre Smith, Kendrick Norton in seventh round


CHARLOTTE – A pair of high school teammates were selected eight picks apart in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

What are the chances? And, what are the chances they were picked by the same team?

"This is the most wildest scenario. I would have never, ever, ever thought of this scenario or dreamt of it," linebacker Andre Smith said. "It's crazy."

Shortly after the Panthers selected Smith with the 234th pick, they selected defensive tackle Kendrick Norton with the 242nd pick. After playing together at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla., they squared off as ACC combatants – Smith at North Carolina, Norton at Miami – but now they'll reunite.

Actually, they don't have to renew acquaintances.

"We touch base a couple of times a week, check in with each other and see how everything is going," Norton said. "We've always had a good relationship – that's my guy."

Smith, a 6-foot, 237-pounder, racked up 21 tackles and an interception over the Tar Heels' first two games of 2017 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He amassed 113 tackles as a sophomore in 2016 with "one-and-a-half arms" after suffering a torn pectoral that spring. In 29 career games, Smith totaled 187 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.

In December, he was cleared to start running coming off a torn meniscus in his left knee and decided soon after to forgo his senior season.

"I decided to test my luck. I believed in myself, believed in my abilities and what I could do," Smith said. "My goal since I was four years old was to play in the NFL – not only play in the NFL but to be a starter and leave a legacy."

Norton, a 6-3, 314-pounder, was consistently disruptive for the Hurricanes. He had 6.5 tackles for loss among his 26 total stops in 2017 and 10 tackles for loss among his 39 stops in 2016.

"I go hard. I try every play, leave everything I have out there on the field, running 40 yards down the field to help make a tackle or whatever," Norton said. "You could call me a bully. I play like a bully."

Norton, like Smith, couldn't have been more excited to get the call from the Panthers.

"I was filled with joy. I couldn't even speak for a second," Norton said. "I answered the phone so quick, I almost broke my thumb."


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