Noble starts quest for NFL with Pro Day - Albuquerque Journal

Noble starts quest for NFL with Pro Day

UNM defensive end Joey Noble extends during his vertical jump at the UNM Pro Day on Thursday. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

When Joey Noble played football at Los Alamitos High in Orange County, California, he earned the nickname, “D-1 Joey,” because of his dream and likelihood of playing on the NCAA Division I level.

Now he’s hoping for the moniker, “NFL Joey,” as he dreams for his name to be called during next month’s NFL Draft.

Noble, a standout defensive end for the University of New Mexico, was one of several Lobos who participated in the UNM Pro Day on Thursday in their quest to reach the NFL.

Noble has been diligently training since his final season ended with the Lobos. He led UNM with 18½ tackles for loss, which was tied for first in the Mountain West Conference during the regular season. He also led the Lobos with 6½ sacks.

“It’s exciting, but definitely the best is yet to come in April,” Noble said. “I’m just looking forward to the opportunity.”

Noble, at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, is undersized when considering a prototypical defensive end in the NFL, but he consistently showed he was on an elite level during his final season with the Lobos.

He completed 15 reps on the bench press (225 pounds), ran 4.90 seconds (unofficial) in the 40-yard dash and recorded a 25½-inch vertical jump. A representative from the Arizona Cardinals recorded the marks.

Noble, who has an agent, said he won’t watch the NFL Draft, April 28-30, but he said he’ll be ready if he gets called. The call could come as an undrafted free agent.

“He will be playing somewhere this upcoming season,” said Jerome Haywood, UNM’s defensive line coach. “It’s just a matter of where. He’ll be fine. … The man is tough. He has a big heart. That’s one thing you can’t coach.”

Noble, and the rest of the athletes in the pro day, didn’t have to look far for examples of former Lobos who made it into the NFL. Byron Bell, a graduate assistant for UNM, played seven seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman. He attended the pro day, as did former New Mexico defensive back D’Angelo Ross, who got his start with the New England Patriots in 2019 and was signed by the Miami Dolphins in January.

Noble would love to take the same path as Ross. Both played at Fullerton Community College in California, at different times, before transferring to UNM.

Bell played four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, and one season each with the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. He said it was difficult to reach the NFL, but once he made it to the Panthers as an undrafted free agent he was eager to prove he belonged.

“Just trust your fundamentals and technique, and that will put you in the position,” Bell said when asked what advice he had to offer. “Work hard, with a good attitude and great effort. Have a good attitude every morning, every day. Study the playbook. Continue to work hard. Even if your name doesn’t get called on draft day, if you get the chance to get the helmet in your hand, you got an opportunity.”

Ross stood out at the UNM pro day three years ago when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds and also had a 39-inch vertical leap.

Ross said Hightower was the most athletic player for the Lobos when he was at UNM.

Hightower completed 13 reps on the bench press, ran a 4.6 in the 40 (unofficial) and recorded a vertical jump of 35½ inches.

“I still have some stuff to work on,” Hightower said. “I’m not as fast, but you can see (the speed) in my hips. I have some of the best hips you’ve ever seen. If they give me a chance, I’m gonna show ’em.”

Hightower said Ross has inspired him.

“I always thought (Ross) wouldn’t get a chance because of his height (5-foot-9),” Hightower said. “But he showed that it doesn’t matter. If you have the intangibles, if you run fast and if you’re good, you’ll get that shot.”

UNM defensive backs Tony Collier and Patrick Peek, as well as tight end Kyle Jarvis and kicker Andrew Shelley also participated in Thursday’s pro day, as well as some athletes from Division II New Mexico Highlands and former Lobos who had transferred out of UNM in recent years, including Elijah Lilly, Jay Griffin IV, Jeff Jones, Jacobi Hearn, Brandon Burton and De’John Rogers.

Lilly and Griffin were wide receivers while at UNM and known for their great speed.

Lilly was clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40, and Griffin 4.59 seconds, unofficially.

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