Danny Noonan collected numerous honors and accolades during his college and professional football career.
None resonates with the Lincoln Northeast graduate as much as one that came one dark morning in the fall of 1982.
"It was my junior year in high school and I was named all-city by the Journal Star as a defensive tackle or lineman," Noonan said last week. "That was one of the highlights of my whole career. My dad would always drive down to the docks at the newspaper and pick up a copy and read it before anybody. He came in and gave me the paper and showed me the all-city list."
Noonan went on to earn Super-State honors the next year and a Nebraska scholarship. He was first-team All-Big Eight and a consensus first-team All-American before being drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys.
It is because of those achievements that Noonan will be one of 11 athletes inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame this fall, along with four coaches, one official and two contributors.
Joining him in the induction class are athletes Bob Green of Creighton Prep (1978 graduate), Russ Hochstein of Hartington Cedar Catholic (1996), Calvin Jones of Omaha Central (1990), Tonya (Kneifl) Gordon of Newcastle (1997), Jenny Kropp-Goess of Grand Island Central Catholic (1998), Lionel McPhaull of Omaha North (1993), Alice Schmidt of Elkhorn (2000), Dean Thompson of Omaha Westside (1980), Jan Wall of Lincoln Northeast (1958) and P.J. Wiseman of Ralston (1992). Coaches honored are Dan Brost of Mullen, Dan Keyser of Cambridge, Doug Krecklow of Omaha Westside and Sharon Zavala of Grand Island Central Catholic. Official Doug Martin of North Platte, and contributors Phil Cahoy Sr. of Omaha and Bob Jensen of Central City will also be inducted Oct. 4.
"People usually expect me to say my highlights were with the Cowboys or being drafted, but my top two highlights are the all-city selection and then two years later, when I was a freshman at Nebraska," Noonan said. "It was a night game against Kansas and we were ahead by 60 or 70 and it was really cold. I got on the field for the first time."
Noonan had played in all five Nebraska freshman games that year, but getting to play with the varsity was another story.
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"I played in the championship game in high school — we got blown out by Omaha Westside — and the next year, I was suited up for a national championship game," he said. "Mark Munford and I went right to varsity without redshirting. I was going against Dean Steinkuhler every day in practice. That's Dean Steinkuhler, the Outland and two-time Lombardi winner. And I got my butt kicked every time.
"You have to play against the best to get better. You have to push yourself. In the pros, I played with Randy White, Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett."
The lessons learned in athletics were multiple, according to Noonan.
"In athletics or in banking, you have to have everyone on the same page, functioning as a team. You have people who specialize in one area coming together with other specialists," Noonan said. "One of the sayings Coach (Tom) Landry always used was 'By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.' It's the same preparation in banking as it is in athletics.
"It's just that when you're in athletics, you don't see the big picture. After 25-plus years, you appreciate the game and how much it does for you."
Noonan is the director of wealth management, a division of First National Bank, in Omaha. He and his wife, Julie, have five children.
He credited the coaches at each level for his growth.
"I had great coaches, from Coach (Bob) Els at Northeast to Coach (Tom) Osborne to Coach Landry and Jimmy Johnson," he said. "It wasn't much of a transition from Osborne to Landry. Their demeanor was similar: calm and calculated. Coach Johnson was the opposite end of the spectrum, all fire and brimstone."