Like so many other veterans when they return home, Nathan Noble had some trouble adjusting to life in the United States. After serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Noble was a new man when he returned stateside five years ago.

"He'd been doing something he felt so strongly about that was every day absolutely a matter of life and death," Nathan's mother, Beth, recently told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "Then you come home and nobody really relates to you. They expect you to be the same 18-year-old that left."

Now 28, Noble joined the Marines after graduating from high school about 10 years ago. In April 2003 he was deployed to Iraq, and eight months later he was deployed to Afghanistan. That tour lasted two years, and before long he returned to Iraq, where he was stationed in a dangerous part of Baghdad. Firefights and roadside bombs were common.

"We’d joke about things like getting shot, because that’s how we coped," Noble told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "But in the back of our minds it was very much a reality that, 'Hey, I might never see you again when you get blown up five minutes from now.'"

When Noble returned from Iraq, it took a while to adapt to civilian life. A skilled soccer player in high school, Noble helped a friend coach a middle school team and then eventually scored a gig as an assistant men's coach at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.

Noble, who had spent some time kicking a football during a brief stay in Uzbekistan, worked out with the Georgetown football team and routinely nailed 50-yard field goals. He discussed the possibility of walking on, but because Georgetown is a private school, the GI Bill would not cover the entire cost of tuition.

So Noble has gone back to training several days a week, hoping to play somewhere next year. He enrolled in classes at Kentucky in 2009, and since the NCAA allows students a five-year window to play intercollegiate athletics, Noble only has one year of eligibility left.

"I just hope I get a shot," Noble told WDRB in Louisville. "Whatever comes of that, I'll do whatever the team asks me or the team needs me to do."

For Noble's entire story, see here.

(H/T to Hot Clicks)

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Three decades ago Doug Flutie thrilled the country.

Never the biggest or the fastest guy on his team, Flutie controlled the football field like few before him. His antics are stuff of legend, and not only did his drive and creativity win him a Heisman Trophy, it inspired a generation.

About 15 years after Flutie chucked a last-second Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan, little Johnny Manziel raced around the backyard of his house in Tyler, Texas, doing his best Flutie imitation.

Manziel grew to be about six feet tall, just like Flutie. And Manziel was overlooked by some of the nation’s powerhouse college football programs because of his size, just like Flutie. And now Manziel has burst onto the national stage, guided by a certain age-defying poise to claim the top prize in collegiate football.

Just like Flutie.

"His body language reminds me so much of myself," Flutie told ThePostGame. "He kinda holds the ball in one hand and moves around like it's his own little playground back there. I just love watching him play."


It's not often these days that Heisman winners are reminiscent of players who played 30 years before them. Who does Cam Newton remind you of? What about Robert Griffin III?

But the parallels between Manziel and Flutie are impossible to ignore. And they go much deeper than their similar statures. It's the way that the two play the game -- their football DNA, if you will -- that drives the comparisons.

First and foremost, both are fundamentally sound quarterbacks. No matter how quick or creative you are, you don't knock off the defending national champion on the road without a strong arm, a good pocket presence and a keen understanding of the game. Flutie developed that over his time in Chestnut Hill, and the 20-year-old Manziel has shown himself to be way ahead of the curve.

"He takes his reads, he can deliver the ball from the pocket and he can throw the football," Flutie said of Manziel. "And then the fun starts."

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By "fun," Flutie means Manziel's ability to improvise, that intangible feel for the game, when the field becomes a playground and anything is possible.

Indeed, the most famous sequence of Flutie's career is defined by his football IQ. When the pocket broke down on that final play against Miami, Flutie had the presence of mind to scramble, look downfield and toss a perfectly placed 60-yard pass.

Manziel displayed that innate understanding of the game early and often in Texas A&M’s victory over top-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 10. On a 3rd-and-goal play midway through the first quarter, Manziel dropped back and within seconds was engulfed by several lineman. Somehow, Manziel emerged from the scrum and raced to his left.

A righty, Manziel had to turn mid-stride and jump slightly so he could toss the football to a wide-open Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone.

That’s why they call him Johnny Football.


The comparison only goes so far, of course, and Flutie is the first one to admit that Manziel has the edge in athleticism. Whereas Flutie got faster as he grew older –- he ran the best 40-yard-dash of his life at age 32 --Manziel is as quick as they come at just 20.

"I made people miss and I had a lot of 20-, 30-yard runs," Flutie said. "But boy, [Manziel] disappears and he's gone. He's got that straight-ahead speed as well as the elusiveness. He's just been fun to watch."

In that respect, Manziel fits in perfectly with the speedy quarterbacks of the modern era. Unlike, say, Denard Robinson or Robert Griffin III, Manziel didn’t run track in high school. But his elusiveness is still off the charts. Just ask the Louisiana Tech defenders Manziel left in his wake on a 72-yard touchdown run.

In total, Manziel rushed for 19 touchdowns this year, tied for second most among all Division I quarterbacks. And he did it in a league with three of the eight stingiest defenses in the country.

Flutie did not have a single rushing touchdown during his four years at Boston College. But if Flutie had played in a wide open offense like Manziel does, that number surely would have been different.

"It's fun football to watch, for sure," Flutie said of the proliferation of spread offenses. "I wish it had gotten here 20 or 30 years ago so I could have used it in the NFL."


Sports fans know all too well how easy it can be to forget yesterday's stars. In the never-ending search for "The Next Big Thing," we sometimes devalue players of the past.

That's why it was so refreshing to hear that Flutie's legacy is not lost on Manziel.

When Manziel took the stage at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square on Saturday, he was surrounded by some of the sport’s greatest players, including Flutie. After a record-breaking year, perhaps the best by a freshman in the history of college football, Manziel had claimed the sport’s top prize.

"This is a moment that I’ve dreamed about since I’ve been a kid," Manziel said, "running around the backyard pretending I was Doug Flutie, throwing a Hail Mary to my dad."

We can only hope that 10 years down the road another little kid will be running around his or her backyard, jumping and juking like Johhny Manziel.

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ThePostGame recently caught up with the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner. Flutie is currently working as a college football analyst for NBC Sports and touring on behalf of the Capital One Cup, an NCAA Division I athletic award given annually to the top men's and women's college athletics program.


ThePostGame: Is there any particular bowl matchup that you're looking forward to?
DOUG FLUTIE: I think, for me, obviously the national championship game. But I love watching Johnny Manziel play, so the Texas A&M-Oklahoma game should be a lot of fun. The fact that they're playing at the Cotton Bowl, it's Texas A&M and Oklahoma, it's a throwback to what the old Cotton Bowl was back in the days of the Southwest Conference. That's going to be fun for me to keep an eye on.

TPG: It seems like there are a couple of teams in the Capital One Cup standings that can make some noise in bowl season. Wisconsin, Stanford, Florida State are all in the top 10. Do you see any big shakeups coming?
FLUTIE: The national championship for both levels, FCS and FBS, is 60 points. The national championship game is going to pull a lot of weight. The gaining of the 60 points and the emphasis on championships in general is huge, especially for football.

Florida in the past has been dominant across the board in their program. They're the defending champions, until they’re unseated, every Florida win is huge. And they're playing in the Sugar Bowl.

TPG: You've got to be happy to see a Boston College alum leading one of the best teams in the NFL. It seems like with so many top tier teams in the league he doesn't get as much attention as some of the other guys. When you watch Matt Ryan play, what stands out to you about him?
FLUTIE: No. 1 he’s a classy kid. Since his Boston College days he's done everything the right way. When he went to Atlanta, he was exactly what they needed after the whole Michael Vick thing. So whether he was successful on the field or not, he was the right guy.

And now, with the way things have gone for him and the way he plays. He's a traditional quarterback, he's standing in there, throwing the football, taking his reads. I'll put him in with the elite. He's going to be looked back at as a Peyton Manning or a Tom Brady before he's through.

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And it's good to see that they can carry the torch for the guys who can still stand in there and throw. [It's like], "Hey, this is the way this game is played, people. Not this running around stuff that all you athletic guys like to do." I've admired him since his BC days. His rookie year he made throws and did some things ... right away you knew he was going to be successful.

I'm very happy for him. I think he's just gonna have a phenomenal career. He's going to get himself a Super Bowl ring at some point, hopefully it's this year.

TPG: You've done a lot of work on concussion awareness. How far do you think the NFL has come in the last five years, and how much progress is there to be made?
FLUTIE: There's a lot of room for progress for sure. I don't know how much progress has actually been made. I know that the helmets have been restructured. Something about a lighter helmet scares me, and these ones that look like motorcycle racecar helmets pop off all the time. But I don't know.

They are putting money towards it, and I don't know whether it's legitimate or whether it's to appease the lawsuits and everything else. The fact that they pull players out but then you get guys that have concussions and hide it from the team so they can play the next week, and the team says "We're going to clear a guy" when it used to be an eight-day rule where you have to sit a game out. So I don't know how much progress has been made, I know there's a lot more attention being given to it.

I don’t know that there's a lot you can do about concussions, other than sit people out and not let them play.

TPG: We couldn’t let you go without asking about your band, Flutie Brothers Band. Are you guys still jamming, or are you on break?
FLUTIE: Usually during the fall we're on break, we don't do a lot throughout this time of year. Usually we do some stuff at the Super Bowl and then in the spring we do a lot of playing. We still get together and we're getting ready to start booking dates again in January.

It's just a fun release. We all have a blast doing it -- you don't get beat up and you don't lose.

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