By Heather Keller
Before fifth year quarterback RJ Noel even steps onto the field for pregame, he is focused and ready to go. His mindset does not waiver in the presence of an opponent even if he is on the brink of breaking a record.
“My mindset has completely stayed the same since I started here. Go out and help the team win, that’s what I try to do each game,” said Noel. “Everything that comes along with it just comes.”
The Pioneers traveled to New Britain, Conn. to face the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils on Saturday, Nov. 5. Despite falling to the Blue Devils 37-35, Noel was 20-for-32 on the day for 263 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, according to a press release from Sacred Heart Athletic Communications.
In the fourth quarter, Noel was able to secure yardage with a 12-yard pass to senior running back, Nate Chavious, in which Noel broke the Sacred Heart University all-time career passing yards record with 8,869 yards. The record was 8,803 yards, which was held by Dale Fink from 2007-2010.
During the game, Noel also became the second active Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) quarterback to have 100 total touchdowns. He now has 80 passing touchdowns and 22 rushing touchdowns.
“Setting a record at any level is kind of special, but at a collegiate level it’s tougher competition and means more than in high school,” said Noel.
In response to his individual record, Noel gave credit to the offense that supports him and their ability to execute.
“If you have good enough wide receivers like we do here, you can spread the ball out and get the ball in the playmakers hands so they can go to work,” said Noel.
“Chemistry and connection is apparent between the offensive players, which makes a difference in the game,” said fifth year senior Moses Webb. “As a receiver, once you and the quarterback get on the same page it all just goes uphill from there,” said Webb.
According to Noel’s biography on the Sacred Heart Athletics website, he came into college with athletic achievements and ability, having broken 14 school records during his time at Lowell High School in Massachusetts.
“We red-shirted him his freshman year so he could get used to the offense, he has matured as far as he knows the ins and outs of everything,” said head coach Mark Nofri. “He makes all of the checks at the line of scrimmage for the offensive line, he sets the protections, so I guess you could say he’s got the keys to the car.”
Webb and Noel have gone through the program together, which has given both of them the opportunity to watch each other grow and become consistent stand out players.
“Everything he [RJ] says, we listen to. Basically his leadership is the reason why we are here. It’s the reason why he has had success, and the reason why Sacred Heart as a program has had success too,” said Webb.
Nofri has pride in the dedication Noel has put into the program and to his own athletic growth in his time as a Pioneer.
“31-12 in his career, four consecutive winning seasons, he’s been to the playoffs twice, and won a Northeast Conference Championship twice,” said Nofri. “I’m just extremely proud of where he was as a freshman, where he is now and what he has done for our program.”
The Pioneers, led by Noel, will conclude their regular season against Bryant on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. at Campus Field.