Noel heads sterling WW South Hall of Fame class
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Certain images get embedded into the brain.
Like seeing Dana Noel muff a punt, pick the ball up and race 90 yards for a touchdown as a senior at Wheaton Central in 1976.
Noel didn't drop many and scored a bunch, a reason why on Friday he and four others will be inducted into the Wheaton Warrenville South Athletic Hall of Fame, 4:45 p.m. in the school auditorium. They'll also be introduced during a ceremonial coin flip before the varsity football game against Naperville Central.
"I feel really humbled and I feel blessed," said Noel, presumably speaking for the rest in WW South's fifth Hall of Fame class.
Such as Jim Humay. Wherever he coached baseball, all he did was win. Drafted by the White Sox in 1963, the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer directed each Wheaton public high school in a 400-win career.
As Humay wound down, Dan Brauer started his windup. Also three-year varsity football player, Brauer was smooth as silk in center field and on the mound, notching a DuPage Valley Conference-record 0.00 earned-run average one season. The 2006 Big Ten pitcher of the year at Northwestern was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies that year.
Jenna Pearson has a nice swing, too, only vertical. The 2003 graduate WW South's four-time girls golf MVP, a three-time DVC champ and a 2001 all-stater. All-Academic at South Carolina, Pearson won the Illinois Women's Open in 2006 and 2011 and this summer competed on the professional Symetra Tour.
Jake DeClute was a three-time all-DVC soccer player, all-state as a senior in 1994. He played on Wheaton College's 1997 national championship team and was Thunder coach Joe Bean's top aide during a 2006 title season. DeClute is now scouting director and assistant coach for Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps, so he won't be able to attend the festivities.
Dana Noel? He was a two-time track all-stater, twice all-conference in football as Wheaton Central helped found the DuPage Valley in 1975. At Minnesota in 1980 he was a second-team all-Big Ten pick — at defensive tackle. In 1982 Noel spoke at Minnesota's commencement.
In preseason camps of the Steelers, Colts and Vikings, Noel made his mark professionally in 1983 with the New Jersey Generals, a teammate of Herschel Walker.
At age 24, armed with his psychology major and communications minor and having turned down New Jersey's two-year offer and another from a Canadian team, he phoned his dad and said that was that.
"And that wasn't a terrible feeling," said Dana, who left Wheaton Central with 18 school records and 13 scholarship offers. "I thought it was a great life lesson, that I'd taken my talent as far as I could take it."
Now a big-time marketing rep for Nike, Noel met Red Grange twice. In a college game at Illinois, he picked off quarterback Dave Wilson and returned a kickoff 93 yards.
"I actually lived out my dream," he said.
It'll be replayed Friday night in what he calls "football country," presented at the induction by his Tigers coach, the one and only Andy Hauptman, in front of his wife Sheena, son Kevin and parents William and Rebecca.
"Someone said to me, 'You should have been in long ago,'" Noel said. "That's not my time, it's God's time. I shouldn't choose when I go in. Just the idea that I'm blessed, I'm healthy, I'm here, that I can go in and my friends, my family can see it, that's enough for me."
High school students can make amazing leaps between junior and senior years. Kiya Barrett transformed herself from Glenbard South cheerleader into Raiders football player.
There were doubters.
"My mom said I couldn't do it," Barrett said.
Rather, mother Mikaya Barrett was understandably reluctant to put her daughter in harm's way having never played organized football.
Now Mikaya says, "It's awesome," and her daughter agrees.
"I love it," said Kiya, a cheerleader as a sophomore and junior and a lineman as a senior. "I honestly don't want it to end. They're amazing — the football team, my teammates, my coaches. Football's amazing."
Violent, too. When Barrett indicated last spring she wanted to play, Raiders coach Jeremy Cordell told Mikaya Barrett her daughter would be treated like anyone else. (Except, of course, for sharing locker rooms; home or away Kiya dresses in either a bathroom, a trainer's room or another locker room.)
Cordell was not shocked by the prospect of a female player. As an assistant at Glenbard West he said a girl played from freshman to junior years. Female position players are exceedingly rare but not unheard of, with somewhat recent examples in West Aurora and Elgin. More common are kickers. Olivia Vatch booted 2 extra points in Immaculate Conception's 2008 Class 2A championship win.
Despite initial anxiety due to unfamiliarity Barrett hasn't missed a day of practice, including the summer contact period. At the conclusion of Glenbard South's minicamp in Ripon, Wis., Cordell said she thanked her teammates for accepting her. She got a standing ovation.
"Now we're really close," said Barrett, who was encouraged by friends and teammates alike to go out for the squad. "They tell me anything and they don't have to be careful about what they say. They trust me. We're cool."
An offensive guard, Barrett has gotten into three games, she said. Last week she debuted at nose tackle and made a stop.
"She's definitely giving it all she can, there's no doubt about it," Cordell said. "I give her a whole lot of credit."
The most important thing, he said, is Barrett set a goal and followed through. In the process she won over her brother, Darnell, a 2013 graduate and football player concerned about the possibility of injury.
"He's sorry he ever doubted me," Kiya said.
"Everyone says, live your life, no regrets, and nobody really knows what that means," she said. "I do. I wish I could go back and do it all over again."
Wheaton Academy's Josh Ruggles said mainly what he got from his Aug. 8 world record of 135 3-pointers in a five-minute span was about 250 additional Twitter followers. He's being modesto.
That's modest, or humble, in Spanish. Because right now Ruggles, his parents Dave and Holly and older brother Brandon are in Spain, sightseeing and preparing for a 3-point contest that's part of Supercopa, the tournament that starts the Spanish basketball league known as the ACB.
Ruggles, a junior guard at Wheaton Academy, will be shooting from 22 feet against the likes of North Carolina State all-time 3s leader Scott Wood and former Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni. The contest is Saturday, held in the 15,000-seat Buesa Arena in Vitoria-Gastiez.
The Illinois High School Association and the NCAA cleared Ruggles' participation but not, naturally, the $5,000 prize should he win.
After nailing those 135 3s in the Wheaton Academy gym, on video now past 350,000 views on YouTube with coverage everywhere from ESPN to The Huffington Post, Ruggles got a message on his cellphone from the ACB's Roc Massaguer, inviting him to compete at Supercopa.
Ruggles said he nearly didn't tell his parents about it since he wondered if he could participate or "if it was real."
He can, it was, and he started practicing shooting from 22 feet out, farther then the 19-foot, 9-inch high school distance. A recent effort was 22 of 25.
His main concern, aside from jitters against pros like Nocioni, is getting used to the seams on the European balls, different from the ones used here.
The reality is, this is all gravy.
"The big goal would be to win it," Ruggles said. "Going in I've got nothing to lose. If I were to shoot 4 of 25 I could just leave that in Spain and never have to talk about it again. But mainly it's just the opportunity to go to Spain."
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1
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