James Noble has phone messages from Canadian Football League teams wanting to sign him to a contract and bring him in for training camp.
Only, they’re contracts long since cleaned from the paper shredder, no doubt recycled multiple times over. The voicemails are remnants of opportunities the former Cal Poly star running back has never stopped pursuing.
“I kept those messages because I listen to those pretty much every day before I work out,” Noble said. “I use it as motivation.”
Noble last played football at Cal Poly in 2008. The recorded messages are from early 2009. Now three years later, after talks with the Canadian teams fell through for reasons still unclear to Noble, he’s trying to follow the footsteps of another former FCS back who used social media as his crowbar into the pros.
Starring in a seven-minute YouTube video entitled, “Underdog: The James Noble Story,” Noble showcases a daily workout regimen that proves the 5-foot-6, 185-pound runner is in as good shape as when he was breaking records with the Mustangs, if not better.
Set in Noble’s hometown of Barstow, the video showcases Noble going through impressive physical drills. He uses wheelbarrow push-ups to ascend the stadium steps of his old high school. He balances on one leg, squatting nearly to the ground while balancing a 45-pound weight with his arms extended. He uses a 40-inch vertical leap to grab the rim in the basketball gym.
The workouts are a visual backdrop to audio that illustrates how a lightly recruited Noble fell into Cal Poly’s lap when Sacramento State pulled a scholarship offer late. Also included are the phone messages from CFL executives.
Marketing a similar video, former Montana State running back Demetrius Crawford used Twitter to make connections within the Saskatchewan Roughriders, which eventually led to a contract and training camp invitation without ever working out in person for the CFL franchise.
Noble ranks third on Cal Poly’s all-time rushing list with 3,678 yards. His 35 rushing touchdowns are the most in program history, ahead of other program greats such as Louis Jackson, Craig Young, Antonio Warren and Gary Davis, who played for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in the late 1970s.
In Noble’s freshman season, he ran for 1,578 and 16 touchdowns, both Cal Poly’s single-season bests. Had the Mustangs not switched to a ball-sharing triple option in his junior season, Noble’s numbers could have been even gaudier.
Crawford, 5-8, 195 pounds, was a little bigger and faster than Noble when the two came out of college the same year. Each going undrafted by the NFL in 2009, they got to know one another at the many open tryouts and workouts they both attended for pro scouts, which at this point are too many for Noble to count.
His acquaintance with Crawford is how Noble got in touch with Eric Gomes, an amateur film maker from Crawford’s hometown of Fairfield that produced Crawford’s video, “#Dreamchasersneversleep.”
Released on Monday, The James Noble Story has more than 1,700 views, and Noble is hoping that building buzz can get the right people excited about giving him a chance to make a roster.
So far in his quest to make a team, he’s found it hard gaining access to the decision-makers.
“The open tryouts, you can go there and it’s 300 guys there,” Noble said. “You do well, and you’re still that short guy, and unless you do something crazy to get their attention, right now I’m falling in with everyone else.”
Working a day job on the ground crew for Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Noble uses the free flights afforded by his job to hop from tryout to tryout and visit home whenever he can. Last year, he showed up to training camp for the UFL’s Sacramento franchise uninvited just to see if he could try out.
He continues to pursue professional opportunities outside of sports as well but hasn’t once thought about giving up on his dream of showing up to a tryout and winning the professional contract he’s always wanted.
“I have all the confidence in the world that I can take that position, I can be a star in that (CFL) league,” Noble said. “My mom’s pretty big on telling me to believe that it’s going to happen and it’ll happen. I just try to believe that it’s going to happen. It’s in other people’s hands to give me a chance.”