The Oregon linebacker attacks blocks violently. He tackles ballcarriers explosively. He captains the UO defense from the middle of the field with a commanding presence.
Through his play, Sewell has forced the nation to take notice. After leading the Ducks with 114 tackles last season, he was on the preseason watch lists for the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award, each of which is given to the top defensive player in all of college football. Sewell’s name appears regularly on preseason all-America lists.
“On and off the field, Noah, he brings it,” fellow UO linebacker justin flowe said.
When it comes to hearing from Sewell, though, the pop of shoulder pads on the field usually has to suffice. Few other players on Oregon’s roster are as attention-averse as Sewell, at least when it comes to appearing in the media.
The football program’s annual preseason media day was conducted Wednesday, and reporters on hand immediately swarmed Sewell when he got to the podium for his 15-minute session. If you didn’t get him then, those reporters knew, you might not have another chance for quite a while.
“I like to lead by my actions,” Sewell said. “I want you guys to come watch the games, and how I roll on the field. I’d rather let my actions speak for my words.”
Sewell’s approach to publicity calls to mind another prominent UO star of the recent past, quarterback Justin Herbert. Like Herbert, Sewell is respectful and attentive when engaging with reporters. Also like Herbert, Sewell feels much more comfortable grinding with his teammates behind the scenes – on the practice field, at meetings and in the weight room.
Sewell’s older brother, former UO offensive lineman Penei Sewell, also could be reluctant when it came to addressing the media, though not to the same extent. At practice, though, Penei Sewell was among the most vocal Ducks on the field, cheering on teammates from the sideline and chirping at defensive players.
Noah Sewell has progressed as a vocal presence at practice since arriving at Oregon in 2020. But he isn’t so hard to miss as his brother was.
“I like to lead through the shadows,” he said. “I don’t like the spotlight. I’d rather have my guys get the spotlight.”
Whether it likes it or not, the spotlight manages to find Sewell. He is on no less than five prominent preseason all-America teams as the 2022 season approaches. One of them was published by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, which also has Sewell on its player of the year watch list.
Already, Sewell has made a name for himself as one of the best linebackers in the country. And now he’ll get to play in the new UO defense under head coach Dan Lanningwho was the coordinator at Georgia when the Bulldogs won last season’s College Football Playoff National Championship.
This offseason, Sewell has watched film of that Georgia defense. He has seen how effectively the linebackers were deployed in Lanning’s system.
“It gets me excited, because we get to make a lot of plays,” Sewell said. “Everybody gets to make a lot of plays.”
Like any good competitor, Sewell is hoping to make even more plays this next season. He has worked to improve “all aspects of my game” this offseason, Sewell said. But one above all else.
“My coverage,” Sewell said. “I feel like I’ve done an all right job. But I do need to get my hips flipped, be more fluid in my drops. Get more comfortable in space.”
For opposing offenses, the prospect of Sewell being able to cover even more of the field is a scary proposition.
The next step for Sewell is progressing in practices this preseason. And that starts Friday.
“We’ve got a lot to show,” Sewell said. “New group of guys coming in, young guys and the coaching staff. I just can’t wait.”