Robert E. Norris was a star running back for the University of Delaware in the mid-1980s and a New Castle County police officer for 14 years before retiring last year to devote more time to real estate ventures.
Colleagues at the Police Department were stunned to hear of Norris' death at a business meeting Monday night, spokesman Trinidad Navarro said. "It's ironic that he spent 14 years on the front lines as a police officer and never suffered a scratch," Navarro said.
Navarro said Norris' police duties included time as a foot-patrol officer in the Brookmont Farms section of New Castle County.
Off duty, Norris kept busy. "He was involved in real estate and got to the point where he didn't have to work here anymore," Navarro said.
There were signs already at Union-Endicott High School in Upstate New York that Norris was a go-getter.
A standout athlete, Norris earned the nickname "Bullet Bob" for his exploits on the football field, school district spokeswoman Marilyn Blake said. He was on the student newspaper and was a member of the school history and varsity clubs, she said.
To top off his high school career, he was elected Homecoming king and "most popular" by his senior class, she said.
Norris set numerous records at the University of Delaware, where he played three seasons of varsity football with quarterback Rich Gannon.
Norris' records still stand for kickoff returns in a season (31 in 1986), receptions by a running back in a season (45 in 1986), and receptions by a running back in a career (112 from 1984-86), said Scott W. Selheimer, the university's sports information director.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Norris as a free agent in 1987. He played for a time on the practice squad, Navarro said.
In Newark, Del., yesterday, Norris' widow, Patricia, answered the phone, but said she was "not prepared to talk at this time."
A neighbor, Stacy Erickson, called the Norrises a "wonderful family." She said the couple had two girls and a boy.
Robert Norris was always outside with his 7-year-old daughter, shooting baskets, said Erickson, who lives across the street and three doors down in a development of about 200 houses. "He was so involved with all his kids," she said.
Erickson said Norris' youngest daughter always used to say, "My dad's not very good at basketball, but he's really good at real estate."