Oceanside High School senior Mike Norton Jr. — whether making a defender miss on the gridiron, cramming a dunk through the cylinder on the hardwood or rounding the bases on the diamond — has been a nearly unparalleled athletic standout his entire life, especially the past four years.

Norton has the keen ability to anticipate snap counts on the football field, the timing of an opponent's basketball shot or a pitcher’s movement as he wrecks havoc on the bases.

And those abilities are not by accident. They are by necessity.

The 17-year-old Norton, about to embark on his final high school basketball season for the Mariners, has managed all these superlatives and athletic achievements while functioning day-to-day with the hearing of a person probably four or five times his age.

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 he 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.

“He came down with a very severe case of chicken pox,” said Dennis. “All over his body, in his mouth [and] he had a fever of 106. It was the worse case of chicken pox I’d ever seen at that age.”

“It was a very scary time for the family," Dennis said. "[At] about 18 months [old] we had his hearing checked because he was not talking. He went to Massachusetts Eye and Ear and we were told he had nerve damage in both ears. At two years old, he had hearings aids and speech therapy.”

Dennis added it is difficult to know whether Norton was born with the hearing deficit, or it manifested from the chicken pox.

“Back when he was born, they didn’t do hearing tests [at birth],” Dennis said. “Now automatically when they’re born they do that. So we don’t know if the hearing loss was at birth or if it was the chicken pox, but we thought it was the chicken pox.”

“We’ve got to blame something,” he said with a laugh.

While he was caught up academically by the time he got to middle school, even now, Norton feels the effects.

“I could have a face-to-face conversation and I may need to resort to reading your lips, but I can understand [you],” said Norton. “Anything further than that, distance-wise, I really can’t hear much.”

“It’s kind of the same thing with glasses,” Norton said. “If you wear glasses and you take them off, you can’t see that well. It’s not that they can’t see at all. Same goes with hearing aids.”

Still, the majority of high school student-athletes are not wearing hearing aids. Particularly ones that excel, as Norton does, regardless of the sport.

And while he certainly excels in his three chosen sports, most agree if Norton decided to try something else he would achieve greatness.

For example, he likely would be a state track-and-field championship contender in the sprints, jumps and hurdles.

As a junior, Norton was a Courier Publications/VillageSoup athlete-of-the-year finalist.

That year on the football field, Norton had 482 rushing yards and 504 receiving yards with seven touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball at strong safety, Norton had 78 tackles, 11 quarterback sacks and two interceptions. His efforts earned him second-team all-conference honors. On the court, he averaged 15.9 points, 11.1 caroms, 4.2 steals, 1.2 assists and one blocked shot. He also set the school record for points in a game (40) and earned first-team all-conference honors. On the baseball diamond, he competed in 14 games and hit .425 at the dish, a .531 on-base percentage, a .525 slugging percentage with 17 hits, eight runs, eight RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He also sported a .824 fielding percentage.

He continued his torrid pace on the gridiron as a senior with a dream season, racking up 2,111 total yards (1,603 rushing, 242 receiving and 171 on special teams) and 30 touchdowns, while averaging 12.6 yards per carry.

He also had 94 tackles on defense and 10 sacks from the linebacker spot, earning him first-team all-conference honors at running back and linebacker.

“I’ve coached Michael since he was in seventh grade and he was special then and he is better now,” said Oceanside football coach Wes Drinkwater, who also is a middle school boys basketball coach. “He’s a competitor plain and simple and losing doesn’t sit well with him. Fortunately for him, from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t done much of it.”

Norton has a strong athletic pedigree. His father, Mike Sr., was a three-sport athlete and 1,000-point scorer for then Rockland District High School, while his mother, Heidi Peters, also was a standout athlete during her days at RDHS.

Now, Norton will prepare for his senior season on the hardwood, with sights set on a deep run in the regional tournament.

“Even if he doesn’t have as many points in the book as another person, he still is making so many plays and doing so many little things that don’t always show up,” said Mariner basketball coach Matt Breen. “His defense, getting hands on balls, getting rebounds against a lot taller and bigger competition has been key to our success.”

The 6-foot 2-inch forward has been throwing down dunks on the court since he was a sophomore and a key cog in Oceanside’s run to the state Class A championship game. Now, he hopes to do so again, this time in Class B.

Norton said his hearing aid is especially a hardship in football. Big hits — either ones he is doling out or receiving from the opposition — can jar it loose. He wears a protective sleeve over his ear to prevent moisture from getting in, which can make it difficult at times.

Norton said he has people — young and old — comment on his hearing aid “all the time.” Younger kids more out of curiosity, and older as a way to establish a commonality.

Both agree that much of his success, regardless of the sport, can be attributed to his visual acuity.

“I don’t think he ever had an offsides [penalty] in his whole career in football,” said Dennis. “Because he just relies on looking at the ball. He probably can’t hear the counts that well.”

“I have to rely on my other senses,” Norton said. “So I think that might help me see the game better than others.”

One would be shortsighted to call not having all five sense fully intact an advantage. But Norton gets the most out of what he has — and then some.

"Mike always seems to anticipate actions before they happen and sees the entire field or court and all the players on it,” said Dennis. “His focus is extraordinary and I believe a total reaction to not hearing sounds, but being able rely on sight to compensate that loss.

“It takes all the sound and outside noises away and I can just focus on the game,” Norton said. “I can tune out everything else.”

Norton also has excelled academically as he is an honor roll student and a member of the National Honor Society.

“I’m proud that he’s growing up to be a successful young man in all areas,” said Dennis. “In sports, in his academics and in his personality.”