North Texas Daily

Football captain’s importance extends beyond the stat sheet

Football captain’s importance extends beyond the stat sheet

Football captain’s importance extends beyond the stat sheet
December 06
12:33 2021

The defensive line has been a strength for North Texas throughout their football season, with freshman defensive ends Grayson and Gabriel Murphy combining for 13.5 sacks.

While captain and senior defensive lineman Dion Novil has not put up as impressive numbers, there are certain things the lineman does that do not show up on the stat sheet.

Novil himself has recorded 45 total tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles throughout the season, yet has never finished with more than 3.5 sacks in a season. While his number of splash plays pale in comparison to redshirt freshman defensive end Grayson Murphy — who has 7.5 sacks on the season — Murphy maintains that Novil contributes in other ways that are less apparent. 

“Dion has been really effective for us this season,” redshirt freshman Grayson Murphy said. “He’s helped a lot this year by attracting a lot of double teams. It kind of frees me and other players up on the defense and allows us to make plays.”

While the recent success has the team buzzing, Novil explained that there was a time midway through the season where hope was dim. North Texas was on a five-game losing streak and needed to win out in order to stand a chance at making a bowl game. However, he and the other players refused to give up and took matters into their own hands.

“We had a player-led meeting,” Novil said. “We had a heart-to-heart with everyone and let them know hey, the season is not over, we still have a lot to accomplish.”

The unwavering confidence paid off in the end, as North Texas was able to pull off the improbable comeback to become bowl game eligible. The Mean Green won five straight games, with their most notable win being a 45-23 win over then-ranked No. 22 University of Texas-San Antonio to end the regular season.

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell’s praise for Novil boiled down to his willingness to do anything for the sake of the team.

“[Dion] [has] been a tremendous teammate, leader, and man,” Littrell said. “He is going to do whatever it takes to sacrifice for this team.” 

These qualities were also recognized by the rest of the team, as Novil was voted on to be team captain before the season. Novil was previously selected as First Team All-Conference-USA after the 2020 season, but he puts his selection as captain at the top of his list of achievements.

“[Being named team captain] is my greatest accomplishment here at UNT,” Novil said. “To be voted team captain by the guys means they see me as a leader, and I appreciate that. I am honored they chose me to be a captain.” 

 The team captain’s presence and his strong work ethic influence the rest of the locker room, according to Murphy. He emphasized that Novil’s attitude keeps the team pushing even when they were not in the best position.

“Dion has gone to work and kept his head down all year,” Murphy said. “When you see a guy like that come to work every day even when things aren’t going right you never want to let that person down.”

The Mean Green seniors played their last game of the regular season in Apogee Stadium last week against UTSA, but they will be wrapping up their season against Miami (Ohio) University in the Frisco Football Classic on Dec. 23 in Frisco, Texas. North Texas will be looking for their first bowl game win under Littrell after losing in their four previous appearances.

Featured Image: Mean Green quarterback Austin Aune (2) throws a pass to wider receiver Roderic Burns (14) in Houston, Texas on Oct. 30, 2021. Photo by Zach Del Bello

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