PROVO — Kyle Van Noy kept humble after SportsCenter looped his highlight plays from the Poinsettia Bowl across the globe in the hours following BYU’s win over San Diego State.
It was that kind of humility that proved key in his decision to return to BYU for his senior year instead of putting his name in for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Van Noy’s two touchdowns were more than BYU's and SDSU’s own offenses could muster in the Poinsettia Bowl in Qualcomm Stadium that night. He tied an NCAA record for defensive scores by a player by interception and fumble recovery and, as of this past weekend, Van Noy was tied for first in the NCAA for sacks in a season.
Still, it was a quiet voice inside him that kept it in perspective. “I didn’t know exactly what I’d done right after that game. It didn’t hit me until I saw the replays and how it appeared,” said Van Noy.
“On the other hand, there are a lot of plays I should have made in that game, things I did that I missed on. I have a lot of room to improve, both now and in that game.”
Sources inside the NFL have told Van Noy he would be drafted somewhere in the first three rounds, possibly in the top 40 picks, if he were to come out of school after his junior year. One source told him he had a legitimate chance to go in the second round and possibly at the end of the first round.
But Van Noy, who had all but made up his mind last Friday that he’d do just that and turn professional, had a change of heart over the weekend.
“My decision came after a lot of prayer and talks with my family and friends who I respect. It came after realizing how much it meant to me to be with my teammates and finish my career at BYU playing with Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo and others. The NFL can be a business and those kinds of associations are not always as fun as these relationships. It is important to me to be with those I care about and like to be around for one more year.”
Van Noy believes even with the loss of seniors Brandon Ogletree, Ziggy Ansah, Preston Hadley, Romney Fuga and Uona Kaveinga, the 2013 defense will be solid, perhaps as good as this past year’s defense.
“We’ve got a lot of people returning in key and critical positions and others who will step up who are very talented and can do that job. I am excited to play with these guys and have every belief in them that together we can be very good.”
Van Noy said players who are leaving are like family and he’ll keep in contact with them for the rest of his life. “But the guys we have returning are just as good and we’re going to be very, very gritty. We have experience at places we need it. In the long run, we’ll be OK for the season.”
This time last year Van Noy was hurting. He finished the season injured and played with a shoulder injury the last half of the season. He underwent shoulder surgery in February and missed a lot of weightlifting and conditioning and a chance to get bigger and stronger. Still, he had a phenomenal junior year capped by his heroics in the bowl game.
Right now, it is different physically and mentally for Van Noy.
“I’m in the best shape of my life. Aside from the normal bumps and bruises, I’m feeling as strong and as fast as ever in my career. I’m looking forward to this offseason where I can improve and get even stronger, bigger and faster and finishing things off next year in a way I expect. A year ago, I didn’t have that chance to prepare myself.”
Van Noy said in the end, his decision to return to BYU may have been tough, but when he made it, it felt right. “It definitely is the right decision for me,” he said.
Van Noy said Bronco Mendenhall had his back through the process of deciding to return or go pro. “He was awesome. He left it all up to me, totally to me, and said he would support whatever decision I made. Obviously, he said he would like me to return, but if I didn’t, he understood and would support me in what I thought was right. He didn’t pressure me. It was nice to have your coach have your back 100 percent. That is all you could ask for. The other coaches said the same thing.”
Van Noy said he is grateful and blessed for all he’s experienced and will yet enjoy in life.
"This is the right thing to do right now in my life."
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.