Leading up to the National Football League draft, BYU All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy said the possibility of being reunited with former teammate, and close friend, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah in Detroit “would be awesome.”
On Friday, Van Noy got his wish as he was selected early in the second round, No. 40 overall, by the Lions.
Detroit picked Ansah No. 5 overall last year. The Lions traded up five spots Friday to grab Van Noy by swapping their second-round pick with Seattle and giving up a fourth-round pick as part of the deal.
Ansah called Van Noy after the selection.
“It began with both of us laughing,” Van Noy said of their conversation. “He was calling me ‘teammate,’ and he’s like a brother to me. It’s good to be on the same team and be able to go to work and chase the Super Bowl together.”
Detroit’s pre-draft wish list featured a pass-rushing linebacker, and Van Noy fits that bill.
“Comes in NFL ready,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said of Van Noy. “Tremendously smart. That’s a heck of a pick.”
Ansah was thrilled about Friday’s developments.
“Man I can’t stop smiling!!! Welcome to the D,” Ansah tweeted. “Let’s continue what we started.”
Ansah credits Van Noy for helping him learn the game of football after coming to BYU from Ghana. Now, the roles could be reversed, as Ansah will be showing the ropes to the rookie Van Noy.
Last year, Ansah recorded the most sacks by an NFL rookie.
“The Lions are starting a BYU pipeline,” Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Detroit will not be disappointed. Kyle has matured and grown as a person and as a football player, and I couldn't be more proud of him. He's a fantastic football player. I'm looking forward to following his career in the NFL."
Under first-year coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions have altered their defensive scheme and have a need at outside linebacker. First-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin plans to have his Sam linebacker play near the line of scrimmage to pass-rush, defend the run, and drop back into coverage — and those are Van Noy’s strengths.
Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said he noticed Van Noy while watching film of Ansah last year.
“It was really kind of, ‘Who is this guy?’ You’re watching Ziggy and this guy’s making all these plays," Mayhew said. "He and Ziggy are really great friends, too. When I visited with him when he was here, he was telling me how they were roommates together on the road trips and stuff, so I think Ziggy’s probably happy wherever he is right now. But this guy is going to really help our football team and is going to fit in well here too, now that he has somebody on the team he already knows. So, it’s going to be a good situation for us.”
The Lions have a vaunted front four with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ansah. The attention paid by opposing offenses on those defensive linemen should free up Van Noy to make plays, just as he did for four seasons at BYU.
“Five touchdowns, seven interceptions, 26 career sacks,” Mayhew said, listing Van Noy’s stats with the Cougars. “The guy is very productive in every aspect of the game. We like everything about him.”
Mayhew worked hard to bring Van Noy to Detroit. Friday, Mayhew was worried that another team might nab Van Noy before the Lions were able to pick him at No. 45.
“There were a couple teams that we had a concern about,” Mayhew said. “We started calling at the very top with Houston and worked our way all the way down until we got somebody where we had a good match as far as draft choices.”
Detroit is relatively thin at linebacker. Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer are the projected starters and lack another outside ’backer. That means Van Noy could contribute immediately.
Van Noy is looking forward to getting started with his new team — and with an old friend.
“At any place, you are going to have to work hard and make plays and get the respect of the older guys,” he said. “(Ansah) has done a lot and helped me out a lot. We play different positions, so it might be different in that regard, but all in all, I think it will be pretty good.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company