Every football-playing child in America dreams of two things: Making it to the NFL and winning the Super Bowl.
For former BYU football star Kyle Van Noy, his dreams became reality on Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots completed a historic 25-point comeback to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI.
“To be able to live a childhood dream to play in the NFL and then play in the Super Bowl?” Van Noy said. “Oh man, I’m very lucky.”
But it wasn’t just luck that got Van Noy on the field for the Patriots. It was hard work and skill. After being traded from the Detroit Lions in Oct. 2016, Van Noy had to put in extra hours in the film room and the practice field to learn the Patriots’ playbook.
It was a difficult transition.
“It took a lot of patience, trust, effort, hard work and a desire to love football,” Van Noy said. “You make sacrifices. You make sacrifices leaving a place like Detroit where you’ve built relationships with a lot of people, then go to a new environment where people don’t know you. It’s difficult. It’s not easy. But I enjoy challenges and I just try to step up and do it with a smiling face. My approach was to give it my all and trust the process.”
The process is paying off for the former Cougar, a 2nd round draft pick.
Van Noy spent two and a half seasons with Detroit before being traded to New England. He’s posted 68 career NFL tackles, 36 of which came in his half season with the Patriots.
The Reno native said he was able to find success because Bill Belichick and the coaching staff didn’t want to change his game.
“I was in a place with the Patriots where I could succeed,” Van Noy said. “They had a plan for me and envisioned me helping out in a number of different ways. Detroit had me playing a weird role, and that wasn’t me. They were trying to change what got me to the NFL. New England didn’t want to change me, they just wanted to take what I did really well and let me excel at it.”
Van Noy called it playing “free.”
Playing free helped Van Noy make a massive play in Super Bowl LI. With 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter and the Patriots trailing 28-9, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan dropped back to pass on third-and-11.
Van Noy stunted from the left side of the offensive line to the right side and shot between the guard and tackle to sack the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
“It feels pretty good because I helped contribute to the win,” Van Noy said. “But at the time I was so mad we were losing. I didn’t even care to celebrate like I would have if we were winning. But now that I’m looking at it, it’s pretty cool.”
While Patriots fans’ stomachs were churning throughout the game, Van Noy said the team was never worried. The Patriots weren’t surprised to see Tom Brady lead game-tying and game-winning drives.
“For the most part, our guys stayed cool and calm,” Van Noy said. “We had guys smiling at each other like ‘C’mon man, we’ve been up against the ropes all year.’ We didn’t even flinch. We knew we were going to come back… We just needed to get the game close. We knew (Atlanta) couldn’t finish.”
Now Van Noy is what so many other NFL players fall short of: a Super Bowl Champion. He became the 8th different Cougar to win a Super Bowl since 2000, joining Dennis Pitta (2013), Brett Keisel (2009, 2006), Chris Hoke (2009, 2006), Rob Morris (2007), Shaun Nua (2006), Setema Gali (2002) and Brian Billick (2001).
But he still has BYU football-related goals.
“I hope they retire that No. 3 jersey,” Van Noy said. “It was one of my goals to get my jersey retired at the college level and be one of the best to ever walk through those halls. I set a high standard for myself and I was able to (reach) it with the help of the coaches and players on my team.”
Van Noy is one of the best players to ever come through Provo.
An explosive defensive playmaker, Van Noy racked up 26 sacks — good for No. 5 all-time at BYU — and 226 total tackles from 2010-13. He added seven interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.
His best game came in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl, where he nearly single-handedly willed the Cougars to a 23-6 win over San Diego State. Van Noy posted eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. He also scored two touchdowns in the win.
But Van Noy said he won’t remember the games. Rather, he remembers the bonds he shared with so many teammates.
“For me it’s just those moments in the locker room, hanging out,” Van Noy said. “Going out to run on the field with each other and just enjoying a pure love of football. With the guys that were on all the teams — from when I was a freshman to when I left — I’ll remember all of them and I’m appreciative of all of them and their hard work. I’m just grateful for the bonds that I’ve built with them. Not necessarily the games, those come and go, but it’s just the pure relationships that matter most to me.”
Still a Cougar at heart, Van Noy still follows BYU football, but not as closely as he’d like. Playing in the NFL is a time consuming thing. But, he said Kalani Sitake has the Cougars going in the “right direction.”
Now, the linebacker has a chance to relax and recover from a grueling season. But he’s always looking forward.
“I’m just going to try to continue to get better and be a better football player,” Van Noy said. “I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to go to the Patriots.”
Van Noy and the Patriots will return to the field in mid-July when the team begins training camp.