Last season, Norton went to a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl. Jackie tried to prepare him for it. He wore a hat. She carried an umbrella. But the sun and exertion were too much for him. He temporarily lost his sight and nearly blacked out. Two months ago, he attended a UCLA scrimmage. He became sick again, but refused to give in and has gone to each of the Bruins' home games this fall without incident.
"It's strange," says Jackie. "Kenny got out of the ring, where one blow to the head can take you out of this world. He was unmarked. Untouched. The worst thing he ever had was a black eye. He was in such excellent shape, such tip-top form...then for this to happen."
"I think it just was a sign to me," says Norton. "I was not including my family as I should have been doing."
Meanwhile, his son's Bruins hope to win the Pac-10 championship. "We're older and bigger than we were last year," says Ken Jr., who is 10 pounds heavier. "And we're in charge of our bodies. Bigger linemen? So what? They're all big, but they're all slow. I'll beat up and get by a big lineman just as soon as I will a little one."
"I'm just glad to see the work pay off for Kenny," says his father, sitting in his living room. "I don't think I should have to say I'm proud of my son. If any father isn't proud of his son, then something's wrong."
At practice. Ken Norton Jr. is flexing his arms. His neck bows up. The sun glints brightly off his helmet. He's ably demonstrating the sized-up hit. He makes a muscle forklift of his arms and gathers me up. He makes it seem all so very inescapable.
That evening. Ken Norton Sr. struggles to make the words come out right. Slowly but surely he says, "Only sons...can make fathers...immortal."