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When a team is struggling there is always an opportunity for an unheralded player to make a mark. For the Toronto Argonauts there is no better example of that than Llevi Noel.
Given the opportunity to become an every-down receiver last year, Noel responded with career highs of 47 catches for 512 yards. While the offence has struggled out of the gate this season, the fourth-year Argo is off to an impressive start with a team-leading 13 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Like his teammates, he’s disappointed about the on-field results, but when pressed to talk about his own contributions, he begrudgingly complied.
“To make a play when my number is called, I definitely feel good about that,” Noel admitted to Argonauts.ca. “Just being able to be an outlet for the quarterback when he’s been under duress.”
His production has not gone unnoticed by Head Coach Corey Chamblin.
“He’s blue collar, he’s a worker,” said the coach. “I love everything about him. The way he approaches the game, he’s a tough guy day in, day out. He does what he needs to do, doesn’t complain a lot, he just goes to work and when he’s called upon he does his job.”
In terms of coach-speak that’s exceptionally high praise. It shows that Noel has won the trust of the coach and that Chamblin doesn’t have to worry about the receiver either during the week or on game day.
In other words, he’s no diva receiver.
The quarterback Noel will be working with this week is McLeod Bethel-Thompson. The third-year Argo gets the nod against B.C., replacing James Franklin, who has been placed on the six-game injured list.
What qualities does he think Noel brings to a talent-laden receiving corps featuring players like Derel Walker, Armanti Edwards and S.J. Green?
“Man, everything,” he said, anxious to talk about a teammate who doesn’t get much pub. “The guy can do everything on a football field. He can block, he can make amazing catches, he can run away from people, he can get the ball in space, he’s going to make somebody miss.”
M B-T wasn’t done with the accolades.
“He’s the whole package,” the QB continued. “He’s just growing each week and it’s exciting to watch him play and to watch him improve.”
The Toronto native has grown as a player since coming to camp as a fourth-round draft pick in 2016. He quickly made a major contribution on special teams, recording 19 tackles on specials that season.
Noel finally received a chance to prove himself as a receiver last year when Anthony Coombs was injured, and the U-of-T product took advantage of the situation. This year could be even better as he really likes the new offence implemented by new Offensive Coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine.
“The reads in this offence are not so limited,” he explained. “There’s more range for receivers. That’s partially the reason why I’ve had my success, but I also think that’s why our offence can be so dangerous, that we can utilize everyone on the field.”
The offence has shown flashes of what it can be, particularly in the pre-season when it put up 45 points against Montreal, and 30 points in Hamilton. Noel is confident the Argos will once again be that productive.
“We’ve had success, obviously in the pre-season we got to see this offence,” said the Western Tech grad. “I think we’re maybe one beat or one step behind, but it’s definitely going to click, and when it does it’s going to be magic.”
Noel’s passion for the game and exemplary work ethic are being rewarded at this stage. As the season progresses and the chemistry grows there’s reason to believe Noel is correct, that this group of talented players will gel, and that could prove to be something special.