(Note: There’s been a couple of columns that I’ve written that have just been hard to do. One was for Coach Hawkins. One was for Wade Wilson. This one is just as difficult. Cary Noiel was, and will always be, my friend. If this seems personal, that’s because it is.)
Greetings, Lion fans, and I wish I had a better subject to write about today. Caught up in the joy this past weekend of seeing my daughter Shelby receive her BS in Agribusiness (Yes, there is now a McLean with a degree from Commerce), and seeing all time Lion great Luis Perez finally get a championship ring in the XFL, as well as the MVP of the game, there was the terrible news of the sudden death of one the last truly great Lion running backs, Cary Noiel.
Cary wasn’t the biggest, nor was he the fastest. What he was, though, was one of the most physically and mentally tough players that I’ve ever seen. All five feet ten of Cary was muscle. He had Earl Campbell like thighs that were literally a weapon. Cary was a violent, punishing runner, with good quickness that blended perfectly with the hammer that was Ted Sample at fullback.
As physical of a runner as he was, I only saw him miss one game in my time in Commerce. Just how durable was he? his 630 carries are second in Lion history only to The King, Arthur James. His 30 touchdowns are third behind Aundra “Boomer” Thompson and Ricky Dirks. His 3.020 yards still rank fifth. You want an idea of the kind of runner that Cary Noiel was? Go on YouTube, find anything from the 2017 Lion Championship Season, and watch E.J. Thompson. He was built almost exactly like Cary; he just had more speed.
As talented of a player as he was, Cary was a better person. He and I couldn’t have been more different, but we learned so much from each other. Things like trust. How not to judge a person by their appearance, how they sound, He was one of those kinds of people that had an intimidating and angry look about him. Once you started talking to him, that look belied a warm, decent, kind soul that was just an overall good guy. He looked out for me. This was the first time away from home for me, and around completely different kinds of people, so Cary made sure I wasn’t run over, or made a fool of, and treated with respect. I’ve never forgotten that.
We used to have a good time poking fun at each other about a pro football teams. As much of a diehard Cowboys fan that I was (and still am), Cary was that much of a diehard Redskins fan. Whoever’s team won, you can bet the other was going to hear about it. He taught me the fine art of dominoes. I just thought I knew what I was doing until I got into games with Cary and the crew over in Hubbell. I let him and Darren Smith borrow my car for a double date one night. It was right back in the Hubbell parking lot the next morning, with some gas put back in it. In 1980, the Lions had a road game at Cameron University in Oklahoma. It was one of the few games on artificial turf. Cary didn’t have a pair of turf shoes and was very concerned about his footing. I had a pair that I played softball in over the summer, so, we cleaned them up, he wore them, and the Lions defeated Cameron, 35-20.
Later in life, we still had our differences. Somehow, though, we could always talk our way through them. and agree to disagree if it came to that. He enjoyed getting to meet my family, and he treated my son like he had known him forever. A chance phone call in the summer of 2009 was the impetus behind getting Coach Hawkins’s name on the field. I’d like to say I had more of a hand in it (I did not), but that’s where it began. No matter how long it had been between conversations, we could still pick right back up where we had left off the last time. At times like this, I always wonder, “What was our last conversation like?” I can honestly say it was good.
Cary Noiel left us at the age of 63 this past weekend, far too soon. He may have been the last of his kind in Commerce, the dependable, workhorse runner, a perfect blend of speed and power.
We once had a King in Lion football. Arthur James is still the only Lion in history to have his number retired. If Arthur James was indeed The King, (and he was), then Cary Noiel was The Crown Prince. He is my friend, and I miss him already.
Rest easy, Crown Prince. I have the watch.
One thought on “Cary Noiel: The Crown Prince”
To the proud Lions of ‘80
Hi I am devastated to hear the passing of Cary… he was my best friend on the team that year, even though I was a freshman, he never treated me as such, and always gave me the time of day and help me out in every practice and in every game. God rest his soul, may God, protect his family. He will always be in my heart and on my mind.
1980 Lions Football