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Front-row look of changing times in Argoland provide Noel with learning experiences

Jimmy Ralph and Rodney Smith are in Edmonton, S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards were in the XFL before the sporting world came to a halt, while Derel Walker remains unsigned.

It’s been a dizzying off-season for the Argos in virtually every aspect of their football operation, but the changing face is especially pronounced at the receiver spot where Llevi Noel has emerged as the veteran face of the unit.
In a stunning turn of events following an expected, and much-needed, upheaval of a franchise, only Jake Reinhart has served longer than any other Argo not named Noel.

Granted, Noel and offensive lineman Jamal Campbell both broke into the league at the same time four years ago as rookie, but Noel has appeared in more games given how Campbell was so new and raw to the sport.

Campbell is among the hardest workers in football and has evolved to the point where he started the second half of last season at right tackle. He’ll enter the 2020 season as the Argos’ longest-tenured offensive lineman.

Noel earned a roster spot because of his exquisite play on special teams.
When the Argos upset Calgary in the CFL’s championship game in 2017, it was Noel who set an Argos franchise record in a Grey Cup by recording five special teams tackles.

Scott Milanovich, Marc Trestman and Corey Chamblin have served as head coaches during Noel’s tenure in Toronto. This coming season, Ryan Dinwiddie will become Noel’s fourth head coach in five years.
Michael (Pinball) Clemons will be the third general manager overseeing the Argos following the dismissals of Jim Popp and Jim Barker, who drafted Noel.

Only Chandler Worthy, Declan Cross and Kurleigh Gittens are holdover teammates to line up as receivers.

“Each year the dynamic is different,’’ said Noel, a hard-nosed, hard-working player who always leaves everything out on the field. “A new coach comes in, he’ll bring in his coaches. A GM comes in and they bring in their guys. What you learn is that everyone has their own unique way at looking at talent, character and what they focus on.

“This year, it looks like we’ve got more of a younger team. It’s interesting because I’m still going through it. There hasn’t been that much consistency. I’m learning and when I look back at the four seasons, we’ve only had one winning season in my career.”

And that winning season came in Toronto’s Grey Cup year when the Argos finished the regular season with a 9-9 record.

“You can say it was a flawed system, but not flawed enough where we won a Grey Cup,’’ said Noel. “It wasn’t a perfect system. What you learn is that every year there’s going to be ups and downs.”

The changing faces, the changing coaches and subsequent changes in approaches have allowed Noel to evolve.

“It’s frustrating 100% because you want consistency,’’ said Noel. “You may have a coach who likes you, but then he’s not around. We had a bad year and there’s a turnover (in management). That coach (the newly installed) might not have faith in you because he didn’t draft you, he didn’t recruit. I have to earn his trust.

“Every year, it seems, is like it’s my rookie year. To some extent it’s good because approaching every year like it’s your rookie year benefits you. You’re working your (tail) off because you’re trying to prove yourself like you first made the team.”


There’s no bigger DaVaris Daniels fan than Natay Adjei.

The two wIde receivers were teammates in Edmonton last season, a frustrating stretch for the Eskimos as the club failed to qualify for the post-season.

But if there’s anything the Canadian Football League has taught Adjei, it is the fluidity of the business and how players change places in the off-season almost as quickly as teams change possession in games.

The two will be reunited in Toronto this coming season.
Adjei, for one, is looking forward to seeing how Daniels plays under rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, a much-needed fresh face whom the Argos targeted following the dismissal of Corey Chamblin.

“I think the world of DaVaris,’’ said Adjei, who began his career in Toronto in 2014 when the Argos selected the Mississauga resident 22nd overall in the CFL draft out of the University of Buffalo.

“He’s an all-world receiver. I watched him in practice, I watched him in games. He can do really whatever he wants. The Argos are getting a true No. 1 receiver. He’ll have the opportunity to lead the league in receiving.

“Staying healthy has been a little bit of a thing, but I have no doubt he’ll be healthy this year and be one of the top receivers in our league. He’s ready to roll.”
Part of the appeal of returning to the Argos for Adjei was knowing Daniels had an eye on Toronto once free agency kicked in last month.

The Argos aare coming off back-to-back four-win seasons following a Grey Cup title in 2017, but Adjei is aware of the off-season buzz and the change being initiated by the club.

“I knew good talent would be coming in,” he said. “But not to the extent that it actually did.”

As a CFL rookie with Calgary in 2016, Daniels produced nine touchdowns in 11 games.


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