The last time we saw Kyle Van Noy, he was winning a bowl game for BYU, wrecking San Diego State’s offense and saving his own, putting on one of the great individual defensive performances in college bowl history.
Van Noy’s showing in the fourth quarter of that game blew through the stages of impressive and entertaining, past the point of memorable, straight to the outer reaches of hilarious, when he scored a couple of touchdowns, with a ridiculous sack of suitably named Aztec quarterback Adam Dingwell during which he knocked the ball loose in the end zone and fell on it, and a subsequent pick-6. All told, he blocked a punt, forced the fumble, recovered the fumble, had the interception, ran like Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch into the end zone and collected 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and eight total stops.
When a linebacker accounts for two of a team’s three touchdowns in the final minutes of a 23-6 victory, two things must be true: He’s a terrific player, and the offense isn’t so terrific.
Check and check.
Now a few sessions into spring practice, BYU expects the former to stay the same and the latter to change in a big way. Both are good bets, the first better than the second.
The Cougars are fortunate Van Noy chose to return for his senior year, a decision that hung over him for the back half of last season, as BYU was building its defense into the third-best in the country, and then, after the bowl game, fogged up his life to the point of not being able to advance clearly.
At the end of the Poinsettia Bowl, the junior said he stood on the field in San Diego, “soaking in the moment.” He said it felt like a dream … until he awoke and realized he had a huge choice in front of him: Turn pro or return for one last turn in Provo.
“The process was difficult,” he says now. “Everything going through my mind. I had to get away and focus on myself and my family.”
Van Noy holed up at his family’s home in Reno for a couple of weeks, hashing through with his parents the advantages and disadvantages of entering the NFL Draft.
“We had a lot of conversation around the dinner table,” he says. “I took the necessary actions in the process of figuring out what was best for me in the long run. It was to come back here. I had a good feeling about coming back.”
Van Noy didn’t say it, but projections that he would be a middle-round pick may have influenced that feeling. It would help him in the pro game to gain more weight — he played at around 235 last season — and maintain or increase his speed.
That’s what he’s been attempting to do during the offseason, working out twice a day in the run-up to spring ball, while attending classes as a history major.
“I’m doing a lot of explosion drills, doing heavier lifts to put on muscle mass to get faster and stronger,” he says, adding that he’s mixed in varied kinds of cross-training. “And just taking care of my body.”
Van Noy wants to play at 245 pounds, and, at present, he’s five short. He says his lifting group — tight end Richard Wilson, receiver Ross Apo and linebacker Austen Jorgensen — has helped motivate him to reach his goals at BYU and beyond.
Ultimately, though, he knows it’s up to him.
Already, Van Noy has wended his way through trials, enduring — and in some cases conquering — his challenges. He nearly quit BYU football twice, once before he ever enrolled at the school and a second time when things weren’t coming together for him. He was picked up for a DUI just days before he signed a letter of intent at BYU in February 2009. Bronco Mendenhall made him sit out a year before returning, and then, once Van Noy got into the program, he got sick and lost 30 pounds.
During a trying start to his freshman season, after having little impact on or for the team, a profoundly immature Van Noy wanted to check out. But Mendenhall, again, reeled him back in, telling the outside backer he had a plan for him. Van Noy bought in and began to grow up.
The next week, Mendenhall told him he was starting against San Diego State, the same team Van Noy dominated two years later last December. Most of his performances in between have paid off for him and for the Cougars. Already, he’s positioned himself as the best — whatever that means — linebacker in a long line of good ones who have played at BYU. Anyone who saw the Poinsettia Bowl wouldn’t argue.
Now, he’s preparing for one last run in college ball, and hoping for the NFL after that.
Van Noy says his parents took out an insurance policy on him to financially protect him from serious injury so he could just “play football” unburdened by whatever happens next. He says he enjoys the college game, the atmosphere at BYU, fully aware of the hard business ahead at the next level.
“I go to school, am on campus, just like everyone else here,” he says. “I just go to class and get my homework done.”
As for football, Van Noy says the drills he’s experienced this spring have been more intense than those in the past: “They’re the hardest I’ve been through. The offense is going fast, and we’re defending that. It’s been crazy. It’s been good. Everyone’s running around with their heads cut off. …”
He pauses to rummage through his time at BYU.
“… I can’t complain. It’s been a great opportunity here. My situation is good.”
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.