NORMAN — The accident happened in early July, but not many people knew what happened besides Dakota Boxwell and those within the Noble football program.
The news first came out after a preseason interview with coach Steve Barrett, and fans then learned of the injury that was supposed to keep the quarterback out of Noble’s first several games.
A few days later, the tale of the “Noble Noodler” caught national attention, and everyone knew. Boxwell, who injured a ligament in his throwing hand during a summer noodling accident, said he received hundreds of messages about the injury. The story was picked up by national publications, and it seemed to the senior that there wasn’t anyone he met who didn’t know his story.
But there is one thing they don’t know — that the injury was a blessing in disguise for Noble.
If not for Boxwell’s injury, the Bears would never have turned to Cory Jennings, the dynamic back who worked every day after summer pride practices to learn the position. And if the Bears would never have turned to Jennings, they wouldn’t have discovered the two-quarterback system that has Noble off to its first 2-0 start since 2003.
“They both work incredibly hard, and having them both allows us to do a lot more,” Barrett said. “We would never have even thought about this if not for the injury.”
However it happened, it works. Jennings is a lively runner in space and adept at making defenders miss. Boxwell fills the role of the pocket passer and power runner.
Notably, both can throw the ball
effectively, which means defenses can’t key in on any one thing no matter who is under center. The two split the snaps fairly evenly, depending on the down and distance and the opposing team’s personnel.
It’s a combination that has the Bears off to their best start in a decade and eyeing their first playoff berth this season since Barrett took over the program four years ago.
But it didn’t come easily.
“That first seven-on-seven scrimmage we did with Cory, we had to change everything,” offensive coordinator Kyle Davidson said. “We threw out what we had and started working on a little white board. He was rusty at first, but once we got him on the run and into space, we knew we were going to be OK.”
While Jennings worked to learn the system, Boxwell was busy fighting his own battle. Told by doctors he would never throw again, he didn’t take time to listen to the rest of the prognosis. Instead, he went right back to the place he was in danger of never returning to.
“I got pissed about it, to be honest,” he said. “I came out here and just started throwing 40-, 50-yard passes.”
His unorthodox rehab approached worked. The injury, which began as a terminal sentence and then modified to one that would keep Boxwell out until Week 4, healed faster than expected, and he returned to the field ready to throw in Noble’s season-opening victory over Tecumseh in the State Highway 9 rivalry.
But he’s not going it alone any more. Boxwell said sharing snaps with Jennings keeps both quarterbacks fresh and makes Noble more dangerous than ever before.
It’s a theory that has held up so far. The Bears have scored 92 points in two weeks, and the pair has been unstoppable so far. But what is most important about the pair may not be how impressive they are together on the field. It’s how they have embraced the unique situation.
“As long as we win, that’s all that matters,” Jennings said. “Having us both on the field makes us a million times better. Whether it’s me breaking your ankles or Dakota knocking your helmet off, it’s going to work.”
Listen to Transcript sports writers Corbin Hosler and Michael Kinney at 6 tonight on KREF-AM 1400’s “Prep Sports Roundtable” discussing the area high school football scene.
Follow me @Chosler88