Hometown Hero: Billy Noonan on return to St. Pius X this year
Walking through the halls of St. Pius X High School, there are banners of Grant Gunnell, Gary Kubiak's retired No. 9 jersey placed in a display case along with a replica Vince Lombardi Trophy and the program's numerous state championship trophies.
Placed next to Gunnel's Built Ford Tough Texas Player of the Year trophy from last season sits the exact same award from 2007.
That was the year Billy Noonan won it. The same season Noonan guided the Panthers to their second-straight TAPPS State Championship.
"I call him the hometown hero," St. Pius X athletic director Jeff Feller said.
Fast-forward 12 years, Noonan is once again walking the halls of St. Pius X, but now as the head football coach of his alma mater.
"It's been one of those things you always think about, but when the opportunity presents itself it's almost like 'it's actually happening,'" Noonan said. "It's been fun to come back. A lot of the teachers are the same, my dad worked here and my little brother and sister graduated from here. You come back and reconnect with a lot of people, which is rewarding. All of those relationships you built you pick up like you haven't missed a beat."
Noonan first walked through the doors of St. Pius X in 2004 as a freshman quarterback.
That same fall, the kid grew into the starting quarterback who took the team from a 2-5 start to an eventual berth in the TAPPS state title game.
"He was a gamer even at an early age," Blake Ware, who was the St. Pius X Offensive Coordinator when Noonan played, said. "That year we started 2-5 and we went on an epic run. We lost in the state championship game, but he got us there.
"Even at a young age he watched film with me. He was a student of the game and did everything he was coached to do. He did a great job for us."
It wouldn't be the last time for Noonan and the Panthers to get there. In 2006 and 2007, Noonan led the Panthers to what would be the program's 11th and 12th state championships.
Over his four-year career, Ware said there were plenty of Billy stories that he could share but reminisced the most about a memorable run.
"He made some of the most epic runs I've ever seen, and they were both by accident," Ware said. "One of them, he's running down the sidelines and two guys missed him. He ends up getting close to the end zone. He snapped the ball; his facemask was facing the sideline because we were hurrying up to run the next play. He hadn't even fixed his helmet yet. We ended up scoring and winning that game."
After setting multiple passing records at Benedictine College in Kansas, Noonan decided to get into coaching.
Once Ware heard that, he wanted to get him hired as soon as possible. At the time, Ware was serving as the offensive coordinator at New Caney. Noonan was hired to come in and coach quarterbacks.
After a few years there, Noonan moved on to Tomball where he served as a passing-game coordinator and head softball coach for the Cougars.
Each of these stops were essential, Noonan said in getting him ready to sit in the head chair.
"I've had a great opportunity to learn from guys who do it the right way," Noonan said. "I worked for Brady Pennington over at New Caney, who does an unbelievable job. I worked for coach [Kevin] Flanigan, who has won everywhere he's gone. It was a few short stints when it comes to the grand scheme of a career, but I don't think I could have found two better examples on how to lead a program than those guys."
Noonan admitted he was still learning heading into his first full season as the head coach of the Panthers.
As far as the reviews go, they are all 5-star. There has been nothing but glowing remarks by everyone involved with the new-look St. Pius X football program led by one of their own.
"You hear nothing but praise about him from parents and student-athletes. He's really building those relationships," Feller said. "The one thing that I love when I go out to his practices is there's teaching going on. These kids are learning; they're learning the skills, how to compete, how to be team players and just learning the new culture of the program and where it's going to go."
This article appeared in the St. Pius X VYPE Fall Edition ... Be sure to go to St. Pius X High School right now to purchase the new St. Pius X VYPE Winter Edition.