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HAMMOCK: Perfect Saturday ends with awards, fiancee for UGA football player Norman

After earning several top awards at the Georgia football team’s Gala last weekend, Peachtree Ridge grad Connor Norman made his night more memorable with a surprise wedding proposal to his longtime girlfriend Hannah Drum, a former Collins Hill swimmer.

After earning several top awards at the Georgia football team’s Gala last weekend, Peachtree Ridge grad Connor Norman made his night more memorable with a surprise wedding proposal to his longtime girlfriend Hannah Drum, a former Collins Hill swimmer.

Last Saturday night was the celebration of Connor Norman’s college career, the Georgia Bulldogs Football Gala providing the backdrop for the senior safety’s inspirational tale from walk-on to contributor at his lifelong favorite school.

Minutes after the banquet ended, another dream came true for the Peachtree Ridge grad.

Norman walked Hannah Drum, his girlfriend of seven-plus years, through the renowned Arch on North Campus and in front of the UGA Chapel. The two regularly walked through that area when both were UGA students — Drum is now in graduate school at Vanderbilt — and Norman frequently checked to see if the Chapel doors were locked, which they always were.

On this occasion, it was unlocked because Norman had rented it for his marriage proposal to Drum, a former swimmer at Collins Hill (Peachtree Ridge and Collins Hill can get along after all), although she was hesitant to enter and interfere with someone else’s event. She eventually said yes on the Chapel stage as a friend documented the events from the balcony with a camera and their families waited out front for more celebration.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Drum, who met Norman years ago at First Baptist Church Duluth. “I came to Georgia thinking this whole weekend was about Connor and I was so pumped for him with the Gala and graduation. I was just totally shocked. … The whole day was a whirlwind and I didn’t think anything about (a proposal). He’s always known I wanted to get married at the Chapel, that I love the Chapel. … He did awesome. I was shocked. It was a perfect weekend.”

It was quite the Saturday for Norman, too.

The 22-year-old’s journey didn’t always look like it would go through Athens when he signed with Presbyterian College (S.C.), where he played as a freshman. But he always dreamed of playing for Georgia, where his parents were once students, so he took a chance as a walk-on for the Bulldogs.

His hustle and hard work not only got him a spot on the team, it eventually earned a scholarship. He played frequently, even started some, in three seasons with the Bulldogs’ secondary.

That was more than some imagined for Norman, the youngest of three athletic brothers. But he proved any doubters wrong, fighting for his spot in an SEC program.

“I learned a lot from football,” said Norman, who began playing for the Duluth recreational league as a 6-year-old. “I learned to persevere and how to reach for your dreams no matter what other people say.”

Norman’s impact on special teams brought his most noteworthy honors at his final UGA Gala as a player over the weekend. He was voted special teams MVP for this season, as well as the permanent special teams captain for the 2013 Bulldogs. He also was one of six picks for the Coaches Leadership Award.

He has one more college football game, the Jan. 1 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl vs. Nebraska, before he puts his full focus into a career. He plans to work in the spring for a clinic in Athens, then start physical therapy school at Belmont University (Tenn.) in August.

He now has a July wedding to squeeze in, too, before joining his fiancee in Nashville.

For now, he can take awhile to revel in a very eventful Saturday.

“It is one of the top days ever,” Norman said. “It’s nice having the senior Gala and proposing on the same day. It’s kind of like one big chapter of my life is ending and another big one is beginning.”

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.