A great nose tackle (or in the 5-2 defense, a great “middle guard”) collapses the pocket, and Danny Noonan just destroyed it. With the quickness to start as a defensive end at the pro level, the Lincoln Northeast graduate was as physically powerful as they come. Not only did the guy see double teams, he saw triple teams.
Noonan didn’t play until his sophomore year and managed six sacks in spot duty as part of a 1984 unit that was statistically among the best ever at Nebraska. He then tallied 11 sacks as a junior and recovered a fumble. That was good enough to make him a second-team all-conference tackle in 1985.
In his senior year, he was named an All-American as well as the Big 8 Athlete of the Year. Not “defensive player of the year” mind you, but “athlete”. That year, the Huskers allowed only one team to score three touchdowns and that was a South Carolina team that Nebraska held to 2.3 rushing yards per attempt. Even in NU’s two losses that year they held the Buffaloes to just over 3 yards a carry and lost on a pair of trick play touchdowns. The defending national champion Sooners managed less than 4 yards a carry and trailed 17-7 in the fourth quarter before Jamelle Holloway and Keith Jackson played like the greats they were to pull out the Sooner victory.
The Huskers were a top five team his final season and he was perhaps the single biggest reason why (both literally and figurately, as at 280 lbs. he was among the handful of heaviest players on the team), Noonan went on to spend five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and was traded to the Green Bay Packers in his sixth and final year.
A great nose man almost ensures a quality defense. Husker fans hope that Ndamukong Suh can find the same mojo Noonan did as a senior and that other Lincolnites that follow will too (like Cole Pensick and Baker Steinkuhler). A monster in the middle like Noonan can take a team a long way.