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Taking His Shot
By John Helsley
When Braxton Noble wanted to learn how to throw a football, the teaching fell to his mother, although somewhat hesitantly.
“Braxton and I have been by ourselves since he was 4,” Gina Noble said.
“He’s always been interested in sports and he really wanted to play football as a young boy, against my better judgment. But that’s what he wanted to do,” she trailed off.
And because Braxton wanted it, well Gina ultimately wanted it, too, even if it meant getting out of her comfort zone.
“I thought I better get out in the yard,” she said.
Before she could teach her son to throw a football, Gina knew she had to learn to throw one herself. She got creative.
“I YouTube’d it,” she said. “Practiced a little bit. It’s pretty easy when they’re young, because you don’t have to throw it very far.”
Gina and Braxton kept on throwing to each other — balls, ideas, respect. And love, much love, in a relationship that continues to flourish for Braxton, an “I Am Building” student in the Spears School of Business, and Gina, associate director of undergraduate studies and clinical associate professor in OSU’s School of Media & Strategic Communications.
“Me and my mom are best friends,” Braxton said. “Some people might say that me and my mom are weirdly close, but it’s just normal for me. It’s me and her. I never really had a father figure in my household to look up to, so I’ve always looked up to my mom.”
Braxton thrived amid his mom’s guidance and example. He starred while playing various sports growing up and showed off his throwing arm as the starting quarterback at Stillwater High School, prompting dreams of playing in college before injuries eventually ended his career. Braxton starred in the classroom, too, opening opportunities to attend various colleges, with his vision initially fixed on San Diego State University, for its sunny locale and the appeal of family in the southern California city.
Hometown OSU got a look, too — a new kind of look.
“I grew up around here, but never went on a campus tour or anything,” Braxton said. “I didn’t really see a reason to.”
Still, Braxton attended Senior Day at OSU, and he discovered more than he’d always assumed. One of mom’s suggestions also resulted in a game-changer in OSU’s favor.
“My mom said, ‘You’re going to go visit Greek houses, just because it’s something you haven’t thought about,’” Braxton said. “Fortunately, it was Sigma Nu that was the only house giving tours that day. I was the first to go through, because my mom knew to go straight there. They gave me my tour; I walked out and said, ‘Mom, I want to be a Sigma Nu.’
“I tell my football coaches all the time that I thank them for almost giving me the opportunity to get hurt. Because if it wasn’t for that, there’s no telling where I might be. Coming to Oklahoma State was the best thing that ever happened for me.”
Braxton continues to thrive at OSU, where he’s a finance major on schedule to graduate in 2019.
A student leader in Spears Business, he was elected president of Business Student Council for his senior year, when he hopes to spark greater involvement and help bridge the gap between faculty and students. Braxton’s been chosen for a national role with Sigma Nu Fraternity as a Collegiate Grand Councilman. He works in the CAGLE office, offering a student perspective on study-abroad opportunities following his own trips to the United Kingdom and Mexico, and this summer Argentina and Chile. He was one of two students who spoke at the April dedication for the new Business Building.
And he continues his ongoing role in the “I Am Building” project along with four other business students. The project charts their paths through school alongside the rise of the new Business Building by sharing their experiences through videos, magazine articles, social media and more.
Braxton may eventually make it to school in sunny California, with his hopes of studying law at UCLA. But for now, he’s focused on finishing strong at OSU.
Across campus, Gina has watched her son’s academic career with joy and pride.
“It has been wonderful to watch him grow,” she said. “I knew when he told me he was going to go to Spears that he was in good hands. I told him he should look at many colleges. And he had many offers.
“When he told me he wanted to go to Spears, I knew it was the right choice for him, and for me.
“Spears has probably enhanced his college experience more than any college ever could, because it’s given him opportunities. And thankfully, he’s excelled in those opportunities.”
From his view, Braxton said he’s been equally inspired by his mom. Along with her significant role on campus, Gina recently served a stint as Stillwater’s mayor.
“She’s done so many different things for me,” Braxton said. “Most recently, her stepping into a leadership role with the city of Stillwater. And in her college on campus, she has really shown me, don’t be afraid to be involved. It’s not a bad thing to be involved, and it can lead to a lot of different things.
“That’s really helped shape me into the leader I am today, showing me it’s OK to take on different leadership roles.”
Eventually, Gina had to give up the sports work with Braxton.
“Starting about middle school, he threw too hard for me,” she said.
Otherwise, they’ve been inseparable. Gina kept going to the games, whether football, baseball, basketball or soccer, and the car trips together offered opportunities to bond even more. So did the cross-country drives to visit family in San Diego or other vacations spent together.
“Just to spend time with him, away from school, away from Stillwater, where we can really get to know each other has just been so beneficial for both of us,” Gina said.
“There’s just something about when you’re alone, and you don’t have any distractions. It’s really cool.”
Especially cool when it involves best friends.
“My mom, I call her Supermom,” Braxton said. “She served as my mom and as my dad. We have a great relationship. It’s always been me and my mom.”