PROVO — As the Detroit Lions found out too late, give Kyle Van Noy a chance to do it his way and he can be a destructive, disruptive defensive dynamo in the National Football League.
The KVN factor should be on full display in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII when the New England Patriots face the L.A. Rams. New England’s Van Noy continues to excel after leaving the Lions, who picked him in the second round in 2014.
Energetic chaos and luck that is not exactly luck are exactly what it is. This is Van Noy’s third straight Super Bowl with New England.
That’s what the New England Patriots have in their defensive leader, Van Noy — the most productive linebacker in the NFL playoffs — operating with a lot of leeway in Bill Belichick’s two-linebacker base defense.
You don’t have to go far to prove the theory. Bronco Mendenhall gave Van Noy a unique challenge in sitting out a year after high school before entering school, and then let him kind of freelance in his 3-4 scheme; he became one of the school’s best defensive playmakers ever. That includes outscoring San Diego State’s offense in the last game of his junior year.
Detroit struggled to find KVN a role, but the Patriots saw his potential back in college and waited patiently to obtain his skills. This Sunday will be his third Super Bowl.
Mapleton’s Keith Nellesen, the current CEO of NUVI and co-founder of Vivint, also tapped into Van Noy’s magic. He met and grew to love Van Noy and named his prized racehorse after him.
“I named a quarter horse KVN Corona, whose father is the famous Corona Cartel. We raced him and he was the American Quarter Horse Association Champion 2-year-old colt in 2017 and champion 3-year-old colt in 2018,” said Nellesen.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to see Kyle play in his third Super Bowl,” said his mother, Kelly. Kyle’s parents Kelly and Layne moved from the Reno area of Nevada to Springville in Utah County six months ago. They have another son, Justin, and his wife, who live in Pleasant Grove, joining them Sunday at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Nellesen, whose family enjoys a close friendship with Van Noy and wife Marissa, have had front-row-seat fandom to Van Noy’s sudden rise in the NFL.
“Though he’s primarily lined up as an off-ball linebacker pre-snap, Van Noy is a hidden gem as a pass rusher,” wrote Pro Football Focus writer Austin Gayle.
“No off-ball linebacker rushed the passer more or recorded more pressure than Van Noy in the regular season, and the postseason has been much of the same with heightened efficiency."
Wrote Gayle, “Of the 54 defensive players with at least 25 pass-rush snaps in the postseason, Van Noy ranks tied for first with his teammate Dont’a Hightower in pass-rush win percentage at 24.0 percent. He also ranks tied for first in pressure percentage (24.0) and claims the sole lead in pass-rush productivity (32.0), logging four hurries, a sack and a strip-sack in the process. He also logged an additional three pressures on plays that were nullified by penalties.”
In short, with a matrix that ranks NFL linebackers in the playoffs, Van Noy is first with 87.2 points, followed by Leighton Vander Esch of the Cowboys with 74.4 and his teammate Jaylon Smith at 70.1, according to Pro Focus.
At the University of Virginia, Mendenhall’s former BYU staff have certainly claimed KVN as their own and revel in his accomplishments at the next level.
Virginia co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga said he and O-line coach Garett Tujague and inside linebacker coach Shane Hunter tapped Van Noy for some tickets to a Patriot game in Pittsburgh, and they had a riot being there with Van Noy.
It doesn’t surprise Poppinga he’s risen to the highest level of the game.
"I’d always been in contact with a scout with the Patriots, even before Detroit drafted him in the second round, and they always wanted Kyle," Poppinga said. "They loved him from the beginning but weren’t able to draft him. What the Patriots do schematically is a great fit for Kyle, and it’s similar to what we did with him at BYU, run him up as an outside backer and make him a part of the front and use him in a multiplicity of coverages.
“Kyle is very versatile and instinctive and you have to give him that freedom to react to what he sees and feels during a play. You saw that his first year with the Patriots when he made some pretty significant plays, and this year with his role he’s been their main guy, making all the defensive calls and check downs.
"You can tell they trust him and rely on him. I just know he’s really happy and it is good to see him find a home where people believe in and trust him.”
Brandon Ogletree played alongside Van Noy in BYU's defense. Ogletree sees tremendous growth in Van Noy from when he first arrived on campus.
"I'm just really happy for Kyle, the way that everything has turned out for him with New England," said Ogletree. "Obviously, his skill and hard work is a huge part of his success, but I couldn't think of a more perfect environment for him to capitalize on his skill set than the one in New England. It's been fun to follow his success.
"One really cool thing about Kyle is how grounded he's remained," he continued. "We still text back and forth to make fun of each other and just catch up. So just how humble he's stayed, along with all the work he does with his charity, he's come a long way since he was a freshman outside linebacker wearing No. 76 in spring ball because he couldn't get out of Jaime Hill's dog house."
Nellesen said after Van Noy’s tremendous effort against San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl, he considered putting his name in the NFL draft early as a junior.
“After the game, he had some alone time and kept feeling like he needed to finish what he started and get his degree," Nellesen said. "He decided to get his degree and a few months later he and Marissa were back dating and got engaged the next fall. Marissa is amazing for him.”
Marissa Powell, from Salt Lake City, was Miss Utah’s entry into the Miss USA Pageant and not only caught Van Noy’s eye and heart but literally changed his life, according to Kelly Van Noy.
“We credit Marissa for being a tremendous force in Kyle’s life. She has turned his life around and we just love her.”
Paul Tidwell, the BYU defensive coach who recruited Van Noy out of Reno’s McQueen High, said he is proud and excited for Van Noy and his performance on and off the field, and for his growth as a man.
“What he’s done with his charity, in helping orphans and adopted kids, is as impressive as anything he’s done," Tidwell said. "He has become a tremendous man and I can’t say enough about what a difference he’s made in a lot of lives.”
That charity is the Van Noy Valor Foundation, created in Detroit and moved to Boston. It is designed to help support adoptions for kids and parents. Van Noy was placed up for adoption shortly after his birth in Las Vegas. His birth mother stipulated she wanted him raised in a home by faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Layne and Kelly were that couple.
That transitory life for adoptive children struck a chord with Van Noy as a young man. His efforts were recently featured in the Boston Globe in a story by Kevin Cullen. It describes his foundation’s party at a hotel conference room in Foxborough, attended by 253 families, a total of 1,300 people that included the recently adopted, and those waiting for adoption and parents.
“These families, these kids, need support,” Van Noy said. “The issues and challenges around fostering and adoption are not talked about enough. For me, it’s about giving people a smile.”
Wrote Cullen: “Those smiles were everywhere at the Christmas party. Margie Perryman drove in from Brockton. Perryman is 68, a grandmother, and should be slowing down after retiring from the MBTA. But she has adopted 10-year-old Tyler and 6-year-old Aiden, so there’s no slowing down."16 comments on this story
Perryman said Van Noy’s foundation does more than give away toys. There’s practical help for fostering and adoption, and mentoring for kids. Perryman likes football, she likes the Patriots, but that isn’t why she loves Kyle Van Noy. “He’s real,” she said. “He gets all this, and so does his wife.”
KVN. Super Bowl Sunday.
He’s off to the races. Somebody try to stop him.
“He’s playing as he did at BYU,” said Tidwell. “He plays with a lot of passion and he’s a competitor. One thing about Kyle, he loves to win.”