Monson: BYU's Van Noy on the brink of something big
Kyle Van Noy covers all the tenses, as though they were a running back seeking open space out in the flat on a critical third-and-5. He looks back at what he was in the past, before he came to BYU and while he was there. He stares down the present, where he is now and how far he's come, with grateful eyes. And he peers out at the future, convinced he's as prepared as he could be to meet it, come what may.
Here's what's coming: On Monday, the former Cougar begins, in earnest, his quest to become the starting strong-side linebacker for the Detroit Lions at the team's training camp in Allen Park, Mich. Van Noy, a second-round pick in May, reports with the rookies. The vets show up a few days later.
Then, the chase is on.
Already, Van Noy has participated in mini-camps and OTAs, running with the 1s and 2s, absorbing as much as he could of an aggressive new defensive scheme in Detroit, one that favors his particular abilities, the versatile skills that have been on display in Provo over the past few years.
Van Noy says he's taking his adjustment to Detroit and the NFL "day by day," and just "trying to have fun playing football." He remains uncertain what the timetable is for his progression or how he'll be used in the early going of his first pro season. But Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been impressed, quoted on the team's Website thusly:
"We can see the physical tools that he has, being able to run. He's smart. He wants to be good. He's diligent about his work. He listens. He asks great questions. I mean, all the good things are there. And he runs around and moves extremely well. But the fact of the matter is, there's still another phase coming. Until we get into training camp, when we get a chance to bang around with one another, then we get a real good sense of it."
Van Noy knows the drill.
"Right now, I've just got to go earn a job," he says, "and show people I can play."
He mentions two Lions teammates he's eager to play with, each for different reasons: Ziggy Ansah and Calvin Johnson.
Ansah is an obvious one. The linebacker and defensive end played together at BYU, building the foundation for one of the Cougars' best defenses ever, and are close friends. Van Noy helped Ansah in his acclimation to college football and now Ansah, returning for his second year with the Lions, is reciprocating by making Van Noy's professional adjustment more comfortable.
"We're like brothers," Van Noy says. "I can't wait to play with him. It's going to be the same as it was at BYU, just a little amplified."
Regarding Johnson, Van Noy has been blown away by the receiver's combo-pack of talent and drive, saying: "He's been one of the best teammates I've ever had. He's reached out and been a great role model. He handles his business. You just want to be a guy like that. My guy is balling out. If the ball is anywhere in his area, he's catching it. It's awesome to see someone like that work so hard. I've only seen him drop one ball. He's a master at his craft. And it's awesome to be around people who love football like that."
The future beckons, then, and Van Noy is pretty much amped out of his mind.
As for his past, that's an exhaustive story, one told before. Van Noy reflects on his evolution, the transformation of an undulating kid who struggled to find words to speak, struggled to find himself, vexed by DUIs and other personal nadirs, into an articulate, thoughtful adult, a grown man on solid ground. How exactly was that accomplished?
"I surrounded myself with people who have the same goals as me, not necessarily in a work environment, but in having the same life goals," he says. "The main thing is getting back to the man above and putting him first. It started there and just went to hard work. My dad taught me that, but I went away from it. I started to rely too much on athletic ability, started believing what a lot of people said.
"I got back to the basics of waking up early, doing things right, saying prayers before I went to bed, thanking the man above for giving me another day. I was grateful to meet a beautiful girl who could change my life in such a positive manner. It was awesome.
"So it was surrounding myself with great people and meeting a wonderful girl."
That girl is Marissa Powell, a former Miss Utah and now a model, whom Van Noy married in June, barreling straight through a few massive transitions finishing off his college playing career, graduating, getting drafted, showing up for mini-camp, getting married, going back for training sessions, going on his honeymoon to St. Lucia, entering preseason camp, and growing up along the way. Looking back at BYU, he says: "I left everything I could there mentally, emotionally and physically. I did everything I needed to do. â¦ It's time to move on. Down the road, I'll say I miss it. You build such great relationships. That's what I'll miss the most, just hanging out with the guys."
Anchored in the center of a hurricane of sentimental reflections and the pressures of and prognostications for a bright future, Van Noy's present is tranquil, darn near sublime.
"Life is simple now," he says. "My wife and I work together, we have less distractions. She knows the price you have to pay to reach goals and to be good. We know what we want. We know what we're doing. We're helping each other and we're also trying to help others as we go."
Says Marissa: "Kyle's worked hard to prepare himself for [pro] football. But he's also figured out what matters most in life. He cares about his job, his family and friends, his marriage, his church. He's grounded in all of that."
He's grounded in one other thing, too.
"I'm happy," Van Noy says. "Life is good. It's a great experience."
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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