Jim Norton dies; jersey one of six retired by Oilers

Updated: June 18, 2007, 5:47 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Jim Norton, a four-time AFL All-Star safety and an original member of the Houston Oilers, has died. He was 68.

Jim Norton
Lou Witt/WireImage.comSafety Jim Norton played nine seasons for the Houston Oilers and still holds the franchise record with 45 interceptions.

Norton died June 12 in Garland, a Dallas suburb, according to an obituary released by the Gonzalez Funeral Home. A cause of death was not given.

Born in Los Angeles, Norton was a three-sport athlete at Fullerton Union High School. He played football for four seasons at Idaho before he was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1960. He never played for the Lions, instead joining the Houston Oilers that same year, when they won the first AFL championship.

Norton retired in 1969 after playing nine seasons with the Oilers, and he remains the franchise leader with 45 interceptions. He also punted for the Oilers, and his 519 career punts were a franchise record until Craig Hentrich passed it in 2004.

"Jim was one of the great original Oilers and a major factor in the early success of our franchise," owner Bud Adams said. "He was well-respected as a player and as a person."

Norton's No. 43 is one of six jersey numbers retired by the franchise, a group that includes Elvin Bethea, Earl Campbell, Mike Munchak, Bruce Matthews and Warren Moon.

"It was a fitting tribute that his jersey No. 43 was the first to be retired by the club," said Adams, who moved the franchise to Nashville, Tenn., in 1997. "Our thoughts are with his family in their time of grief."

Norton is survived by his wife, Ginny; a brother, John Norton; a sister, Janet Cooke; three sons and two daughters.

A memorial service was scheduled for June 29 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, Texas.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press