The maturity level has raised a lot for me. Coming back to school and finishing was huge. Experiencing what we went through this year was a big help for me. Learning to improve every day, finding weaknesses in your game and helping the younger guys, I’ve been super happy. —BYU senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy
SAN FRANCISCO — After his amazing two-touchdown performance in the fourth quarter of last year’s Poinsettia Bowl win over San Diego State, most people expected BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy to skip his senior year and declare for the National Football League draft.
Instead, he decided to stay in Provo.
Among his many accomplishments in his Cougar career, Van Noy graduated last week.
“I’m excited about that,” he said. “It was a big accomplishment for me and my family. Now the next step is playing in my final game. I’m excited and hungry to get back on the field one last time.”
That will happen Friday when BYU faces Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
The decision to remain in school, he said, has been worth it.
“The maturity level has raised a lot for me. Coming back to school and finishing was huge,” Van Noy said. “Experiencing what we went through this year was a big help for me. Learning to improve every day, finding weaknesses in your game and helping the younger guys, I’ve been super happy. I couldn’t ask for a (year) different than this one, with the ups and downs. That’s what it’s all about.”
In his final collegiate regular-season game in his hometown of Reno, Nev., Van Noy helped the Cougars beat Nevada. The next day, in Reno, he got engaged to Miss Utah USA Marissa Powell.
The couple plan to marry “sometime in the summer,” Van Noy said. “I’m happy. She’s awesome. I love her.”
Following the bowl game, Van Noy will prepare in earnest for the NFL draft in April.
But for now, he’s focused on helping his team beat Washington in the Fight Hunger Bowl Friday. As he enters his final game, he hasn’t had time yet to reflect on his BYU career.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m happy and ready to move on, but I still want to win and carry over for the young guys to next year,” he said. “I don’t think it will hit me until after the game.”
Outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga said Van Noy has cemented his place in BYU football history.
“He’s obviously the best linebacker I’ve ever coached in my short career, and probably one of the best defensive players ever to play here, if not the best ever to play here,” Poppinga said. “He’s had a great career. His stats are unbelievable. They pop out on paper. It’s pretty impressive the things he’s done the past four years.”
MIGHT BE GIANTS: The site of the Fight Hunger Bowl is AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Asked if it would be strange playing a bowl game at AT&T Park, Van Noy replied, “No, because I love the Giants.”
Van Noy said he’s never watched a game at AT&T Park. “But I watched Barry Bonds hit a couple (of home runs) out,” he said.
CLOSE TO SELLOUT EXPECTED: Fight Hunger Bowl executive director Gary Cavalli said he’s expecting a near-sellout for Friday’s game.
“Tickets are selling well. I don’t think we’ll sell out, but it will be close,” he said. “We’re expecting about 35,000, and our capacity is about 38,000.”
BRONCO’S BOWL RECORD: Of this year’s bowl coaches — with at least two bowl appearances — only Ohio State’s Urban Meyer (7-1) has a better bowl win percentage than BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall (6-2).