For Noah Picton, there’s no lack of motivation.
“A lot of things motivate me,” said the 21-year-old Regina Rams quarterback. “Fear is one of my biggest motivators. Fear to fail, fear to not meet expectations.”
But 2016 was a year to remember for Picton. He and the Rams exceeded everyone’s expectations, including those who once doubted him.
“There were some people who didn’t think we would be much this year,” he said in a sit-down interview with Global News. “And to kind of come out there and shut them up if you will, it was a good thing.”
Picton and the Rams did just that in 2016, after going 0-8 last year, Picton helped guide the Rams to a 6-2 record and the team’s first-ever first place finish since joining the university ranks in 1999.
On top of that, Picton also broke the national USports (formerly CIS) record for passing yards with 3,186. For his efforts, he was awarded the Hec Crighton Trophy, as the Most Outstanding Player in Canadian university football.
“A lot of people don’t believe that I can do what I do,” he said. “And a lot of people don’t think that I should be where I am… whether it be because I was too small or because of who my dad is.”
But one person who’s always been in Noah’s corner, is his father Dean, who coincidentally enough won a similar national award with the Rams exactly 30 years ago.
“He was the one who taught me everything I know.” said Noah. “He’s been there from Day 1 and behind me the whole way. Without him I wouldn’t be the football player or the man I am today.”
Dean set the standard for Noah off the field, and on, as he helped guide the Rams to two national championships when they were still part of the Canadian Junior Football League.
So now, like father, like son, Noah’s ultimate goal is the same.
“Win a Vanier Cup,” said Noah. “That’s my goal ever since I was a little kid. I’ve been a big fan of this team and I’ve been around this team since a young age.
“Some guys dream of going to the NFL,” he continued. “But I always used to draw the Vanier Cup in my little colouring books and that’s been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, so that’s what we’re working towards.”
THE HEC CRIGHTON TROPHY
Winning the Hec Crighton Trophy in 2016 was truly the feather in the cap of an impressive 2016 season. But it didn’t just start and end in 2016. It was years of preparation and hard work, that wouldn’t have been possible without the man he looks up to.
“It’s for my dad,” said Picton, of the award. “For all the work I’ve put in, he’s probably put in the same amount. He’s with me throwing in the off-season as much as he can. We’re watching film together until 2 a.m. on a Tuesday night together. He was a quarterback and he understands it just as well as I do. He’s sacrificed a lot just to get me where I am today.”
But who’s the better quarterback?
“I think he’s probably better,” said Noah with a laugh. “He won two national championships. How I define a quarterback, is if you can win the big games, he’s probably pretty good.
“And he still throws a better spiral than I do.”
But there’s still two years left for Noah to catch his dad.
“I’ll work on the spiral and try and win a few more games and maybe I’ll be in the same conversation as him,” he said.
And while Noah and his dad will share the award, his mom has big plans with it.
“There’s a plaque that I’m pretty sure my mom has a whole bunch of plans to hang somewhere in the house,” Picton said with a smile. “I’ll give that to her and she’ll take care of it.”
Family is an important part of Picton’s life. The support from not just his mom and dad is what gets him through the challenging times of being a student-athlete, competing at such a high level.
“The whole Picton clan is always in full force,” he said. “Without them, and the support they give me, I don’t know if I’d still be playing. With the hills and valleys of football, and those tough times, you need someone to lean on, and I’ve got 16 close family members that are always there to pick me up.
“I probably don’t thank them enough,” he continued. “But I am truly grateful for all the support that they give.”
TWO YEARS LEFT
Picton still has two-years of university football eligibility left, which means two more years to try and win that national championship. But on top of that, if he keeps up his prolific passing, he could end his university career as the Rams leader in almost every passing category.
This season, he set Rams single season records in passing attempts (323), completions (224) and yards (3,186). His 25 touchdown passes are just one short of Teale Orban’s record of 26 set in 2006.
Picton is currently just 2,100 yards away from passing Orban’s career record set between 2004 and 2008. He also needs just 172 completions to pass Orban’s record of 685.
And while personal accolades are nice, for Picton, it always reverts back to the team.
“Without the first place finish and without the play of the guys around me, I don’t think I would win the (Hec Crighton Trophy),” he said. “I’m not throwing for those yards if the guys aren’t making those blocks or if the defense isn’t forcing turnovers.
“Everything falls back into the team aspect of it and as a team we won first place, so I think that’s more important.”
So what lies ahead for Picton after his university eligibility? Is playing in the CFL a dream of his?
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to play football as long as I can,” he said.
“I don’t view CIS as a stepping stone to the CFL. I don’t view the Hec Crighton as a fast track to the CFL. I’m a firm believer that if you’re good enough, they’ll give you a chance.
“If they see that I’m good enough, then they’ll give me a chance and I’ll go at it. And if not, then that’s their decision.”
Picton actually got a taste of the CFL in 2015, when he was invited to Saskatchewan Roughrider training camp, as part of the Canadian quarterback internship program.
“It’s a tough league,” he said. “It’s a very fast, physical game. Even if you understand what’s going on.”
BEING A STUDENT ATHLETE
There’s no doubting that Picton has been in the work to get to where he is today. Being a student athlete is a full-time job and it’s one that Picton is dedicated to.
“People don’t understand that every night of the week, we are in two hours of meetings, two hours of practice,” he said.
On top of that, there’s the individual workouts and of course, watching video.
“I’ll watch a lot of film at home,” said Picton. “There’s a lot of work that goes into putting the product out on the field. What people see on Friday or Saturday nights, it’s not as easy as it may sometimes look.”
It a lot of commitment to take on throughout the year, but being awarded a trophy like the Hec Crighton, makes it all worth it.
“You realize that you’re working for a purpose and you’re not just mindlessly going through the motions in the gym,” he said.
“Going into the off-season, I think the motivation and the fire comes from the loss,” he said, referencing the Rams first-round playoff loss to the UBC Thunderbirds on Nov. 5, which ended their season. “When you feel like you probably could have won that one. Then you look at Calgary, who gets to the Vanier Cup, and you beat that team. It’s a bitter taste in your mouth.”
“We realize that as good as we were, we weren’t good enough.”
1ST YEAR HEAD COACH STEVE BRYCE
Another person that had a big impact on Picton in 2016, was first-year head coach Steve Bryce.
“He’s made myself and the guys around believe that we can play,” said Picton.
And at the start of the season, Picton said his coach actually told him that he was going to be up for the Hec Crighton Trophy at the end of the year.
But did he believe it at the time?
“Steve’s just trying to get into my good books,” Picton said with a smile. “That wasn’t something that I ever saw attainable. I had confidence in myself, but it wasn’t something that never ever crossed my mind.
“Steve sees things in people, and the players here, that we may not see in ourselves.”
Bryce was an integral part of the Rams turnaround in 2016 and Picton will credit a lot of the Rams turnaround to his head coach.
“To have a coach that believes in you that much, and has that much trust in you, it makes a difference,” said Picton. “It gives you confidence stepping out on the field to do your job.
“When you have a coach like that, you want to go out there and compete for him.”
And while Picton will celebrate being named the best university football player in 2016, for him, it’s always about the team first.
“When I’m playing, I’m not trying to be labeled as the greatest Ram’s quarterback,” he said. “But I’m trying to be the first Rams quarterback to lead them to a national championship and I think that would be a lot more special.
“There’s been a lot of great quarterbacks here, but no quarterback has lead the team to a Vanier Cup, and that’s been my goal since Day 1.”
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.