Rouse was forced to punt against then-undefeated Flour Bluff while on the verge a state semifinal berth in 2012.
The speedy cornerback that fielded the punt didn’t get far until he was hit by 6-foot-4, 280-pound sophomore long snapper Will Noble, who was running down the field one-on-one and dropped him. (The play starts at 00:34 in this video).
“I knew at that point, this kid is a Division I athlete,” Rouse head coach Josh Mann said. “It’s still one of the best open-field tackles I’ve seen any athlete make. When you talk about all-time greats and all-time leaders at Rouse, Will Noble is going to be in that category,” Mann said.
Six years later, the sophomore center that made that tackle and helped the Raiders make their deepest playoff run in school history is now a senior at Houston and one of the longest-tenured starters on the Cougars’ offensive line and was named to the watch lists for the Outland and Rimington Trophies.
“I owe everything to the city that helped raise me and help make me who I am,” Noble said. “That’s my home. That program was amazing to me. I had coaches who were so confident and encouraging that they pushed me to reach my goals.”
Noble grew up around Rouse from the beginning and went to the first-ever varsity football game. His older brother was one of the first classes to go to the school and his younger sister was a member of the Rouse Royals.
His mom dragged him to sports he didn’t even want to play. It didn’t take long on the T-Ball team when he was a five-year-old for him to realize baseball was not going to be his main sport.
He was good at soccer for a while and continued to play basketball and do track and field in high school.
Even though he said his parents weren’t the most football-inclined people, he said they were at nearly every football practice and they’ve been to almost every Houston home game and went to every single game this year because they didn’t want to miss anything.
“They’ve been my rock and pushed me to be the best person I can and supported me in my decisions, and helped guide me,” Noble said. “My mom loves being a sports mom.”
It was the August before Noble’s sophomore year and Mann and the Rouse coaches faced a decision of whether to put the extra pressure of being the starting center on the young lineman or start him at another position on the line.
Mann figured Noble had the size and athleticism to take it on, and he never regretted his decision.
“It was the best decision I made as far as a kid being a leader and understanding the concepts,” Mann said. “He took control of the program and helped lead it to its highest stages.”
Noble and the Raiders made it to the state semifinals during his sophomore season, still the longest run in school history in what was just the third varsity season.
Noble and fellow offensive lineman Will Stauber was the first iteration of the big, physical offensive linemen that Rouse became known for as time went on. The was also helped by a deep senior class that saw the lulls of opening a new school and were determined to go out on a positive note mixed in with what Mann called an elite class of sophomores, including Noble.
“I got to be a part of creating a program and creating a legacy,” Noble said. “That’s pretty cool to look back on. Going to the state semifinals is amazing and part of the reason I’m here today is that exposure and that success.”
But the recruiting process wasn’t as easy as it would seem.
Noble was a two-star center and the No. 40 player at the position nationally, according to 247Sports. But his only DI offer was a late one from then-head coach Tom Herman and Houston. He immediately jumped at the opportunity.
He named a Freshman All-American in 2015 after starting eight games. Since then, he missed just one game over the next three years and was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List three times.
“The biggest thing is I’m a more confident player,” Noble said. “After however many games I've started and played, you’re operating quicker because you know you’re doing the right thing. By being more comfortable, you can set an example for other players.
But he never forgot where he came from.
On his bye weeks, he’ll return to Leander and head to a Rouse practice or game. And Mann knows that he can always count on his former player help out at a camp or offer a word of encouragement to the current crop of Raiders.
“When you’ve got guys that can come back and once walked these halls and were in these locker rooms, they can relay a message more powerful that the coaches can,” Mann said. “He’s a true ambassador of what it means to be a Rouse Raider.”
Rouse has never had an NFL player. Noble may be the first.
He fought to get to the college level and now opportunities at the next level are on the horizon. Entering the season, he was in the Top 10 NFL draft talent in the American Athletic Conference entering this season, according to Athlon magazine.
Noble hasn’t really decided whether professional football is for him. He’s finishing a finance degree and would love to work with contract negations and is thinking about getting his masters if he decides against football.
“Houston has opened a lot of doors for me,” Noble said. “I had opportunities that this school’s shown me, whether that’s though alumni or performing on the field on national television. I’ve been on the field and gotten my education, it’s been life-changing.”