Noble: Kicking a Condition.
Scott Noble kicked off his soccer career at Duke with a storybook play: a game-winning goal against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill minutes after being inserted into the game. "That was a watershed event," says Noble of the corner kick he headed into the back of the cage. "I went from no playing time that day to starting."
The former bench warmer from Southaven, Mississippi, started the rest of the season for a Blue Devil team that rose to the No. 3 ranking in the country. Noble continued that on-field success as a sophomore and junior--until the onset of chronic kidney failure threatened to end his collegiate soccer career a year early.
Shortly after the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference 2000 soccer tournament's semifinal game, Noble felt his legs get increasingly heavy. He knew it was a bad sign. "I knew all the symptoms," Noble says, explaining that his older brother, Phillip, had the same genetic condition and had required a kidney transplant in 1995. "I was just hoping it would happen later in my life."
Facing an extended and potentially painful regimen of dialysis treatments and the uncertain prospect of waiting for doctors to secure a viable donor kidney for transplantation, Noble turned to his father. "It's not every day you ask your dad to go under the knife--something which he's terrified of--to help you. There was a bit of a guilty feeling about it."
Despite some trepidation, Gary Noble agreed to help his son. The father and son flew to Duke and on August 15, 2001--the start of pre-season soccer practice--doctors removed one of Gary's kidneys and nestled it beside Scott's two existing kidneys. Gary was out of the hospital within forty-eight hours; Scott emerged six days later.
Despite the potential dangers that playing collegiate-level soccer posed to his son, Noble said he never questioned Scott's decision to return to Duke for one last season. "I think I had enough respect for the decisions that he had made in the past. I was willing to go along with his decision if that meant that much to him."
Scott Noble harbored early hopes of playing again his senior season, but recovery took longer than expected. By mid-October, he had resigned himself to missing the entire season. As winter turned to spring, he began considering his options.
A double major in sociology and economics, he was on target academically to graduate with the Class of 2002. Lehman Brothers offered him a job to begin this summer. In the end, Noble deferred his job and decided to come back for one last soccer season. After participating with the team this spring, his teammates responded by naming him a co-captain for the upcoming season.
Noble, who acknowledges he has more work ahead of him, is just hoping to add a final chapter to his storybook career. "I know I've been through a lot, but I'm just taking it day by day. I missed the intensity of playing in a game. I really want to come all the way back and get that feeling back.
Dickinson '87 is a writer for the Duke News Service.