This story was originally printed in the BYU-Texas football Gameday program, Sept. 7, 2013
The motto BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy said he will live by for the rest of his life. Despite the struggles of coming into BYU following his senior year in high school, Van Noy is grateful for the opportunity he has to play one last year at Lavell Edwards Stadium as a cougar.
Van Noy said he didn’t realize how blessed he was until the end of his freshman year at BYU, but it was a concept his mother wanted her children to grow up with-- being positive. It’s no surprise to see the effect it had on Van Noy when you see him smile ear to ear.
“That’s going to be my motto for the rest of my life just because no matter what you do, no matter what happens, you’re blessed with life,” Van Noy said. “We all struggle, but at the end of the day, you’re pretty blessed. So you think of all the things that make you blessed, instead of being stressed.”
Van Noy’s mother, Kelly, started the tradition with her own saying, “Less attitude, more gratitude,” and now has her whole family living by their own variation on the motto. Family dinners were when Kelly would initiate conversation and have each person say two positive things that happened to that day.
“The purpose was to try to develop a positive attitude and to recognize the blessings he had been given everyday,” Kelly said. “The world focuses on the negative so much that we made a conscientious effort to develop a positive attitude in spite of the obstacles.”
Now, Van Noy constantly reminds himself of his blessings when he’s on the field to help him get through his rigorous offseason.
“I think good moments are during games when, in between plays, you just get to think about, ‘Man, I’m on the field wearing a BYU jersey and we’re all playing at a high level right now,’” Van Noy said. “Right there, you just try to grasp that moment and kind of hang onto that moment, and you try to remember that throughout your time in the off season.”
It’s not always a happy-go-lucky summer when all he does is train and practice.
“Sometimes you think, ‘I’m working out and not getting paid and all these things,’ but at the end of the day, you’re living pretty good,” he said.
Special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga described Van Noy’s work ethic as unique. Van Noy’s passion and love for the game is evident, but Poppinga saw how detailed Van Noy was about how his body felt and how much he paid attention to his health.
“He’s a major work in progress, and he’s come a long way,” Poppinga said. “To see him progress is exciting.”
After a dominant performance in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl, BYU fans were ready to say their farewells to a Cougar who could be selected in the early rounds of the NFL draft. Eleven days following the bowl game, Van Noy announced his return to BYU.
Van Noy and his family discussed what might be the right decision and weighed the pros and cons, but realized that there was no wrong decision. They knew another year at BYU would only help Van Noy grow and develop emotionally, physically and spiritually.
“It was simply deciding what was better or best for him in this time of his life,” Kelly said. “His heart told him that he needed to come back to get his degree and to spend more time with his friends and teammates. You only have one senior college football season.”
Van Noy constantly says he’s “too blessed to be stressed” to remind himself the teachings of his mother. He’s not going to escape the spotlight this year and the pressure on him may feel too insurmountable.
“Pressure is kind of what you make of it,” Van Noy said. “You can learn to block it out and focus on positives. Focus on the positives, but work on the negatives. It’ll all work out if I just continue to do what I’m doing.”
As a leader of the team, Van Noy has no choice but to lead BYU to a successful year before he heads to the big leagues,. Even as a child, Van Noy was not your average team player. His mother described him as a “parks and rec brat” who would always be telling his teammates to play their positions and to hustle.
“He was in constant motion and very competitive,” Kelly said. “He participated in every program and usually played with and against players a couple of years older than him. His dad handpicked most of his coaches to give him the best chance of success. Even in kindergarten, he had very little tolerance for mediocrity. He didn’t participate to just ‘have fun.’ Yet, at the same time, he was compassionate with special needs players and made a conscientious effort to get them the ball and make them feel a part of the team.”
Van Noy is now known for his soft-spoken character and how he leads by example, but he was once the annoying teammate that couldn’t keep quiet. Van Noy described his younger self as “pretty bossy” and always told people what to do. His father snuck him into a seven-year-old flag football league at the age of five then went on to play tackle football when he was nine.
“I hated losing and it showed, especially if you watch older films of me, I’d be barking at people,” Van Noy said.
Van Noy didn’t like having that image and decided to switch roles when he entered middle school. As he started leading by action, Van Noy saw a change and realized it wasn’t his place to tell people what to do anymore.
“All I can do is my job,” he said. “I switched, not being bossy and telling people what to do, but to just do my job and everything else will go into place.
“I’m not the cheerleader type of guy, but I think my play and how I go into meetings and practices speaks volumes,”
Coming to BYU wasn’t the easiest journey after having to wait a year before being officially admitted, but Van Noy wasn’t going to change his mind despite the other elite offers he had coming his way.
His mother, who Van Noy says is one of the biggest, if not the biggest influences in his life, played a major part in making the decision to stay committed to BYU.
“I was mostly committed because my mom always was good when she raised me as far as, ‘If you say you’re going to do it, then do it. Don’t just say it and not do it, because that goes against your word,’” Van Noy said. “Your word these days, a lot of people say it just to say it, but she raised me to where if you say something, I want people to count on me that I’m going to do it.”
Commitment to something that might have been more difficult is what Van Noy has always lived by. He wants to tell his followers that nothing came easy for him, not even getting the No. 3 on his BYU jersey. Despite having the No. 3 on his back during his pre-college years, the number Van Noy wore his freshman year at BYU was No. 45. The number he called his own because of his favorite NBA player Allen Iverson wasn’t handed to him when he became a Cougar.
He earned the number on his back and it now remains a symbol to him for what he’s gone through and for all the work he’s put in to deserve it.
“Hard work equals success,” Van Noy said. “You need to fight, it’s not going to be given to you, but if you work hard and continue to strive for greatness, it’ll work out for you.”
“He has been challenged in the classroom and on the field, and he has seen success when he does his part,” Kelly said. “I don’t think Kyle saw himself as a role model prior to coming to BYU, but he takes that responsibility seriously.”
Van Noy has also been blessed with people and families who want what’s best for him, keep him grounded and give him an outlet from the stress of being a high-profile athlete.
Mediocre play on the field will never satisfy Van Noy and perhaps the biggest pressure he has is the one he puts on himself. Nevertheless, Poppinga is confident in Van Noy and knows his future is bright.
“Kyle knows what he wants and he knows how to get it,” Poppinga said. “He needs to continue to work hard, stay humble and strive to prepare himself everyday to be the best version of himself he can be.”
“I just want to be remembered as Kyle,” Van Noy said. “Not ‘KVN3,’ not ‘football guy.’ I just want to be remembered as Kyle, just me, the soft-spoken character. And I think I’m pretty funny. I just want to be remembered as that, not necessarily for what I do on the field, but what I do off the field.”
Returning to BYU for his senior year may mean Van Noy wants to prove something before ending his career as a Cougar. Some may believe he wants to end his college career with a win against in-state rival Utah, but reality is, the only unfinished business he has is with himself.
The bright future ahead of Van Noy is just getting started and the attention is bound to rise, but he’ll always remember, he’s “too blessed to be stressed.”
MORE THAN FOOTBALL
Kyle Van Noy’s mother, Kelly, hopes to have taught him more than just football.
“I hope we have taught Kyle to love unconditionally,” Kelly said. “To listen, to use good judgment, but not be judgmental. To treat people with kindness and respect, to be honest, dependable and always recognize where his blessings and talents originate.”
Van Noy’s mother believes he will be fine physically, financially and emotionally at the next football level. It’s about staying true to the values he has been taught.
“Since no one is beyond reproach, what worries us the most is him facing the challenges and avoiding the temptations that will come his way in the professional ranks,” Kelly said.
Keeping BYU’s honor code the past three years, Van Noy knew it wasn’t going to get easier his last year of college. His parents have been a huge asset in keeping him on track and believe they know what’s best.
“Each parent at different times knows how and when to reach their children under different circumstances,” Kelly said. “His father and I, as every parent does, try to set a good example for him and guide him out of love and concern for his eternal welfare and mortal well-being.”
The one thing BYU linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga hopes Kyle and the rest of the team learns is the importance of character.
“He loves football so much, and it’s a big part of his life, but being a good person and having high character and showing a good example to everybody will take you a lot further in life than football will,” Poppinga said.
As BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall once said, “It simply would not be worth it if it were not about more than football.”