From an athletic perspective, there are few, if any adjectives that have not been used to describe the talents of former Oceanside High School standout Michael Norton Jr.

Mariner baseball coach Don Shields called him “gifted.” Basketball coach Matt Breen went with “special.”

But football coach Wes Drinkwater may have summed it up best when asked about Norton’s talents on the gridiron: “He’s a freak.”

And being called a "freak" in sports is a positive, special moniker, meaning, essentially, one is so good at something, or many things, it is tough to label that amazing talent in conventional terms.

For the last four years at OHS, Norton made a habit of throwing wrenches into the game plans of opposing teams, while leading whatever Mariner team he was on to often unparalleled heights.

And it is that uncanny ability to achieve unparalleled individual and team success that led the Courier Publications/VillageSoup sports staff to select Norton its 2017-18 schoolboy athlete of the year.

Norton was one of five finalists for the honor, along with Belfast’s Ricky Smith, Oceanside’s Titus Kaewthong, Medomak Valley’s Eli Miller and Searsport’s Charlie Spiegel.

Norton joins Medomak Valley High School's Gabby DePatsy, the Courier Publication/VillageSoup's schoolgirl athlete of the year for same time period.

Norton, a 2018 OHS graduate who played football, basketball and baseball for the Mariners, excelled in the three sports and led all three programs to the postseason.

"It is a great honor that Michael Norton Jr. has been selected as athlete of the year," said Oceanside athletic director Molly Bishop. "Michael had a unique approach to competition that allowed him to be dominant on the court and on the field, but his ability to up his game when the stakes were high was truly fun to watch. Through all of his accomplishments at Oceanside, he remained humble and was always striving to find ways to be better than his competitors."

In football, Norton proved to be one of the best players in the state as he was named to the Big 11 Conference’s first team at running back and linebacker. On offense, he rushed for 1,869 yards, amassed 242 more as a receiver and finished his senior campaign with an astounding 30 touchdowns.

He led the Mariners to the Class C North semifinal playoff round, including a 40-33 quarterfinal win over Hermon where he racked up 247 yards on 17 carries and touchdown runs of 17, 22, 39, 46 and 78 yards.

In basketball, at 6 feet 2 inches, Norton was a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B first-team all-conference selection as he averaged 19.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 3.6 steals and 1.0 blocked shots and could change a game’s momentum at a moment’s notice with an emphatic block or a slam dunk. He could, as they say, jump out of the building and his many in-game dunks were an example of that.

The Mariners finished that season with a 13-5 record and fell in the quarterfinals to Winslow, but also won a regional championship with Norton a key cog as a sophomore when they competed in Class A.

In baseball, Norton batted .411, with 23 hits, 14 runs, five RBIs and 18 stolen bases. The Mariners won two playoff games before falling to top-ranked Ellsworth in the semifinals.

Norton, who opted not to play college sports in an effort to focus on his studies, is enrolled as a student at the University of Maine in Orono.

Perhaps most interesting about Norton is not his raw, athletic ability, but rather the hurdles he had to overcome to attain his topnotch athletic prowess.

Norton has dealt with a significant hearing deficit nearly his entire life, so much so he depends on the benefit of a hearing aid.

His grandfather, Dennis Norton, said Michael lost 60 percent of his hearing in his left ear and 40 percent in his right, which the family attributes to Norton being sick when he was eight months old.

Norton never let his hearing deficit define him. His actions were much louder than that.

Drinkwater said Norton is “the most competitive person I’ve ever met. He doesn’t want to lose and he doesn’t accept losing.”

“I doubt I’ll coach another kid like Michael for a long, long time,” said Drinkwater. “The kid is just a one-man band. On third down when you have Michael Norton in Maine football, it’s a lot easier to call plays. You just give him the ball, because he’s special. He’s built different and he’s wired different.”

Along with coaching varsity football, Drinkwater also coached Norton in the middle school ranks in all three sports.

“He was everything you wanted,” he said. “He was my best player in basketball, my leading offensive threat in football and in baseball he was my number four hitter. What else is there?”

Drinkwater added that Norton was “a big stepping stone toward us being a regular playoff team.”

“Last year in our Hermon [quarterfinal] playoff game, Hermon was a better team than us,” the coach said. “But they didn’t have Michael. And I did. And in the second half he ran for four touchdowns, made two sacks and made a couple other big plays. That was the difference. He’s a game-changer.”

“He’s one of those athletes that only comes along once in a while,” said Breen. “He’s gifted athletically. There’s not many people that will come to a program as gifted as he was. A lot of times those people that are gifted athletically get by on their athletics, but Michael was really pretty smart. He put a lot of thought into everything and a lot of the stuff he did was pretty calculated.”

Norton was not only a topnotch two-way player on the hardwood, but Breen said he would do “a lot of the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” such as sprawling out for a loose ball, to help lead the Mariners to wins.

He also was known for throwing down slam dunks since his freshman year and could swing the momentum of the game on such a play, or slapping away a shot with a crowd-pleasing emphatic block.

“The thing about Michael was he wasn’t one of those guys who had to receive a pass and then would dunk it,” said Breen. “He’d make up his mind and say, ‘I’m going to pick this kid and then I’m going to go dunk it. I don’t know how many times he’d make a steal at half court and then go in and dunk it. He’d go get the ball himself.”

Norton, as a sophomore, was the sixth man on the Oceanside team that made an improbable run to the regional championship. Breen noted that Norton made several key plays in the then No. 5 Mariners' 66-63 upset over two-time defending state champion Hampden Academy in the semifinals, including “a huge offensive rebound off a missed free throw that got us the ball and we were able to score.”

Norton also tracked down a loose ball with 13.3 seconds to play to help seal the upset.

“That was a huge play at that point in time for a team that was trying to learn how to win in the tournament,” Breen said. “Having someone like that be able to make a play like that in that kind of game coming off the bench as a sophomore was pretty special.”

Special was a word used often in his high school days to explain Norton's impressive athletic talents

Norton missed a few games during the baseball season, but continued to make his presence felt for Oceanside both at the plate and on the basepaths.

Oceanside coach Don Shields said, “Michael did a great job for us getting on base and his speed on the bases makes him one of top all-time [school] basestealers.”

"I really enjoyed coaching Michael,” said Shields. “He is a wonderful young man. He was the quiet one on a very loud team that had fun as a group and made my job as a coach easy. This is a well-deserved honor and I wish Michael nothing the best at the University of Maine.”

Shields said the one play he most fondly remembers Norton for in his four-year varsity career was a midseason win over Gardiner as a sophomore.

“Their coach called time to talk to the pitcher,” said Shields. “I walked down to Michael, smiled and told him we need a hit and we have the prefect guy up to drive the ball. First pitch, Michael ropes a ball to right field, the kid made a great running catch but we scored on the sacrifice fly and won the game. It was a big win that secured home field and a play that I will always remember.”

No matter the season or sport, Breen perhaps said it best when it comes to Norton, the Midcoast's top all-around high school boys athlete for 2017-18:

“Michael’s career was full of moments,” the coach said. “Every game he’d do something that you’d look at and say, ‘Wow that’s pretty impressive.’ It was like a highlight reel with a lot of the stuff he did.”

Michael Norton Jr. was unavailable to participate in this story.