Kyle Van Noy is the embodiment of how golden second chances can be.
This week, Van Noy begins his senior season. It is a situation in which he’s received national attention and a ton of preseason hype. While many question his decision to forego turning professional after his sensational two defensive touchdown performance in the Poinsettia Bowl, few players are riding as high as this guy as the 2013 season unfolds.
It is no secret the talented BYU senior linebacker got in trouble in high school. He'd been offered a scholarship to BYU and he had a setback, an arrest for driving under the influence. At the time, head coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to keep a commitment to Van Noy, but he asked him to sit out a year before enrolling in school.
Van Noy agreed.
He spent part of that extra year before college living with a friend, BYU-bound quarterback Jake Heaps, now the projected starter at Kansas. Van Noy did this as a tool to escape potential pitfalls back home in Reno.
Taking control of his environment is a tool that has worked well for Van Noy as he’s maneuvered his way through college. Yes, even in Provo, there are places and people one might be better off to avoid.
Van Noy’s safe ground is family.
He comes from a very close family. His father Layne serves as an LDS bishop of a University of Nevada student ward. His mother Kelly is his favorite cook and a mainstay of his life. Yes, he was adopted, but his parents are the only ones he’s ever known or cared to credit with that title. His brother Travis is 6-foot-7 and was the starting center at Southern Virginia’s basketball team; he has a cousin who has bounced between San Francisco’s Triple A team and the Giants’ roster.
It is no wonder Van Noy sought out and found a family atmosphere in Provo during his tenure as a Cougar. It came in the form of Corey and Erin Shelley and their sons Kaleb, 8, and Grant, who is 4, and middle child, daughter Lyla.
When he’s needed a haven, a hideout, a break from social demands both harmless and tempting, he’s often found peace and solace in the Shelley house, just hanging out, soaking in the structure, the dynamics of kids and a young couple figuring out life.
“All the hype he’s had this year? Well, he’s still grounded, he doesn’t buy into it,” said Corey. “He has kept himself a humble person.”
Erin agrees. “He’s just grown, matured into a man, and come into his own in an environment that encourages him to do that.”
Van Noy is funny. In fact, he can be downright hilarious. He’s also been seen arguing in kind of a play fight with little Grant. “They get after each other. It is strange, but it is funny.”
He once ran a 5K race with Kaleb, and while Van Noy found himself surrounded by 40 people who wanted his autograph, he was nice, accommodating and patient when mobbed by fourth-graders.
Inside, Van Noy knows this kind of atmosphere is his life vest. It is his sanctuary. While he has an active social life, hangs out with friends, teammates and has done the dating scene the last few years, he also, many times, prefers just hanging out with kids playing video games.
That he can soak this in one last go-round is part of the reason he’s told national sports writers like Dennis Dodd of CBSsportsline.com he elected to return to BYU for his senior year: He needed to become a better person.
“He gets questioned about his history, his background, his problems. He’s gracious about it but he feels it is behind him, that having to wait a year to enroll in school was part of growing up,” said Erin.
Van Noy’s growth as a person has been obvious to those who know him, like the Shelley family.
“He goes in waves,” said Corey. “When he needs to focus on football, he dials back on his social life. He is very mature about prioritizing what he’s going to do. He likes and respects the structure of family life; he knows it is a positive thing to be attached to. He doesn’t let his social life dominate him, which so many athletes do in letting it run their life and take up all their time.”
As a competitive athlete, he does get wound up like a top. After a game, the Shelleys have seen Van Noy drop by and immediately watch a replay of the game. He goes over every aspect of what was done and tears it apart, saying, “This is what I was supposed to do.”
A sack machine, a guy who outscored both BYU’s and San Diego State’s offense in a bowl game last December, Van Noy can be an intimidating force on the football field.
But he’s got a gentle and kind heart off the field. “He loves kids and loves being around children,” said Erin.
This fact, as he’s climbed to a lofty stage heading into the start of the end of his college career, is something few know about this remarkable star.
In Van Noy's odyssey, living out his second chance, this simple thing has been his greatest strength.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.