Am Law 100 associates have been known to pursue a wide range of hobbies, from excelling at Jeopardy to running road races and producing popular Florida food blogs. Thanks to Tremayne Norris, “landing roles in high-profile footwear ads” can now be added to the list.
Norris, a fifth-year IP associate at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C., who began taking acting classes just last year, can currently be seen playing a prominent role in a new Adidas commercial featuring rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins, who opened their training camp Thursday.
Griffin—who retained Loeb & Loeb‘s Douglas Masters for an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to obtain trademarks on both versions of his RG3 and RGIII nicknames—was the second overall pick in the National Football League’s annual draft in April, having left Baylor University after winning the Heisman Trophy as the country’s best Division 1 college football player following his junior season.
While he didn’t win the Heisman, Norris, a native of Laurel, Maryland, was himself a college football player, starting at tight end for Morgan State University in Baltimore before graduating in 2002. (One of Norris’s college teammates—and whom he still speaks with about once a week—was fellow tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who this week signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the New England Patriots.)
Norris’s gridiron experience helped him overcome a relatively thin acting resume on his way to landing the Adidas gig. Prior to auditioning for the commercial, Norris says, his experience as a thespian amounted to a handful of acting classes and an appearance in a student film. But his background matched what the ad’s producers wanted. “They were looking for ex-football players with college experience, and the shoot was on a weekend, so that made it even better for my schedule,” Norris says of the casting call posting he saw on the Internet. “This really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
At first, Norris says he hoped to play one of the offensive or defensive players who simulate the on-field action in a game starring Griffin. Like everyone else at the initial casting call, Norris was subjected to agility drills and a 30-second obstacle course to ensure that he was athletic enough to participate in the shoot. After easily passing those tests, he says, he was asked to audition for a leading role in the ad: that of a player growing increasingly intimidated at the thought of going up against Griffin.
Norris says that during the callback he tried to capture the various stages of dread an opponent would feel if—as the ad depicts—he were to see Griffin driving a bus bound for the stadium, taping himself up in the locker room, and heading from the tunnel onto the field for a showdown with his adversary. British director Sam Brown—whose work includes music videos for Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” and Adele’s “ Rolling in the Deep,” as well as commercials for Samsung and Audi—handled the shoot for Adidas. Apparently, he liked what he saw.
“I got a call back a week later, and [Brown] told me he had seen tape on more than 200 guys,” Norris says. “And I was the one he wanted.”
Titled “Adidas Weighs on You Featuring RG3,” the ad was shot in late May and early June at various locations throughout the D.C. area, including the Redskins’ FedEx Field home stadium in nearby Landover, Maryland. The ad itself began appearing on television last Wednesday, but was released on YouTube the day before. It was an instant hit, and has so far received more than 1 million views.
Norris says he enjoyed working with Griffin and wasn’t even aware that the commercial had begun airing until a security guard at Steptoe’s offices pulled him aside one morning last week and asked him whether he was the same guy he saw on YouTube squaring off against the Redskins’ new quarterback. Norris, who grew up a San Francisco 49ers fan because of his admiration for Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, admitted that he was.
“I tried to keep it a secret, but I started getting calls and emails throughout the day,” he says. “Everyone [at the firm] was really supportive and thought it was pretty cool.”
That said—and while he is currently performing in a play called Am I My Brother’s Keeper? in the D.C. area—Norris doesn’t plan on giving up his day job.
“I’m not stupid,” he says, laughing at the thought of giving up an associate’s salary at Steptoe for a life of commercial casting calls. “This is still just one commercial, and I’m not packing my bags for Los Angeles.”