After his teammates had left the field, Van Noy stayed behind to do a television interview in the corner of the stadium. BYU fans congregated and watched. After the interview, they chanted: “One more year! One more year!” Alone, Van Noy turned and walked across the end zone where he had scored both touchdowns, waving over his shoulder to the fans. “What a way to go out,” he said under his breath. “I have done everything I need to do. I have played my last game at BYU.”
Then he stopped beneath the goalpost, appearing to savor the moment.
“What’s on your mind?” I said.
“Those little kids in Connecticut,” he said.
Six days earlier, a gunman had opened fire at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Ridgefield, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults.
“I feel for those families,” he said.
By the time Van Noy reached the locker room, everyone had left except Ansah and Mendenhall. Ansah was still in his uniform, struggling to come to grips with the fact that his career at BYU was over. Finally, he pulled off his gear and headed to the shower, leaving Van Noy and Mendenhall alone. They looked at each other and smiled. Then they embraced.
“I’m so proud of you, Kyle,” Mendenhall said. “So proud.” “Thank you.”
A few days after Christmas I got a text from Kyle. "Hey, made my choice. Call me tomorrow."
I did. And he told me he was forgoing the NFL draft to remain at BYU for his senior year. All that money could wait. He had talked to his close friend Harvey Unga, who shared some wisdom.
"He told me that I didn’t want to have regrets about not finishing my senior year," Van Noy told me. "I can graduate and finish four years at BYU. Especially with past that I have, staying will have an impact on a lot of other people. 'If Kyle can graduate, then I can too.’ ”
I hung up convinced that a kid mature enough to turn down the NFL for a year was ready for the NFL.
Jeff Benedict is a best-selling author and columnist for SI.com. He recently wrote "THE SYSTEM: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football" with Armen Keteyian.
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