BEREA — The touchdown dance was ready.
It didn’t matter that Danny Noble, an Elyria High School graduate, had never caught a pass in an NFL game. Or was playing in just his second game with the Jaguars. Or is the third tight end on their depth chart.
When Noble went uncovered on a play-action fake on fourth-and-1 Nov. 17 against Arizona, he was prepared. He caught the pass from Chad Henne near midfield, then rumbled toward the end zone. Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson grabbed him around the 12, but Noble wouldn’t be denied. He pushed down Peterson, stayed on his feet and crossed the goal line for a 62-yard touchdown.
He ran across the back of the end zone and quickly broke into a celebration all his own.
“Me and a couple of my homeboys, a couple of guys on the team, had been talking about it,” he said Friday in a phone interview. “I had to do my own thing. It was just a little dance.”
To the uninformed it looked like he was playing air guitar.
“You know jeans with a lot of pockets?” he said. “I was reaching in a low pocket and couldn’t get my hand out.”
The play was exciting enough to earn “can’t-miss” status on NFL.com.
Noble, 24, will be back in Northeast Ohio this weekend as the Jaguars visit the Browns. The celebration was fun, but the touchdown was special. It remains his lone NFL catch in seven games over two seasons.
“We’ve been practicing the play a whole bunch, but it’s a play that we run once in a great while,” Noble said. “When we ran it and I was wide open, my eyes got real big. It felt good to get one of them under my belt.”
Noble (6-foot-5, 248 pounds) was undrafted out of the University of Toledo in 2012 but caught on with Tampa Bay. He was active the first four weeks of the year, inactive for three, then pulled a hamstring and was placed on injured reserve.
He spent part of this season on the Buccaneers’ practice squad and was active for one game but didn’t play. He was signed to the practice squad by the Jaguars in Week 6, promoted to the active roster in Week 10 and has played the last three games.
“It’s great out here,” he said. “It’s like a complete 180 from where I came from. It’s more like family out here.”
Noble didn’t see eye-to-eye with Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano and called his release “a personal issue, an ego issue.” The way Schiano relates to players has been criticized by many current and former players, and Noble didn’t disagree.
“He’s on a power trip,” Noble said. “He would make things personal.”
Noble felt the angst of being without a job but felt confident he would find another home.
“You’re working hard and you can actually see the improvements,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be my last time playing ball.”
Noble is Jacksonville’s third tight end and has a role on special teams. He feels he’s just beginning to tap into his potential.
“To be honest, there’s really no telling what the future holds,” he said. “I know I have a lot of upside, a lot of rawness that needs to be perfected. My goal is to be a starter.”
Noble grew up rooting for the Browns – “I’m a true hometown guy,” he said — and attended football camps at FirstEnergy Stadium, but had never been to an NFL game until he played in the league. Just two years into his career, his family and friends get to watch him play just miles from home. He got tickets for 20 but expects his cheering section to be double that.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s the first time my family legitimately gets a chance to see me play.
“There ain’t no telling how many (are coming). I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a gang.”
Noble’s touchdown, and perhaps the dance, resonated with his teammates and coaches.
“We told our team that after the bye week there’s going to be a lot of cool stories that take place within our team in the next eight weeks, and we don’t know what those stories are going to be,” said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who got excited when asked about Noble. “I think Danny Noble fits that category. His work ethic and his practice habits and things have been great.
“For him to get a chance like that in that game to spark us was great. He’s done very well, moved up really quick to our active roster in the past couple weeks.”