After the bowl game Brigham Young outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy had in December 2012, it would have been hard to blame him if he declared for the NFL Draft.
Van Noy, a 6-foot-3, 243-pound linebacker who was already in the midst of a excellent junior campaign, made a star turn in BYU’s 23-6 win over San Diego State in the Poinsetta Bowl. He terrorized the Aztecs for eight tackles, a forced fumble and interception and a blocked punt.
Oh, and he returned the fumble and touchdown for scores.
“The bowl game, I kind of put myself on the map as well as Brigham Young as a whole,” Van Noy said at the NFL Combine. “For me, it was unbelievable … I look back and I think about how fortunate I was to have guys around me doing their job.”
One of those guys was star defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who was drafted fifth overall by the Detroit Lions.
“You had to pick your poison if you wanted to double team me or (Ansah),” Van Noy said.
But Van Noy, who led BYU’s No. 3-ranked defense with 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, a school-record six forced fumbles and two blocked kicks, did not follow Ansah into the draft.
At the time, he wanted to get better at the college level and help people, despite the fact he’d been told he would have been a first- or second-round pick. It was a risk, however. Not only was there a chance he could injured, but a drop off in play or production in 2013 would hurt his chance at millions.
Turns out his sack production did fall off in 2013, as Van Noy, 23, went from 13 sacks to only four. But despite seeing more attention from defenses, he still finished 70 tackles and 17 1/2 tackles for loss, and at least one draft analyst thinks his decision to come back was a good one.
“I think it helped him,” said NFL.com’s Mike Mayock. “He became known as one of the best all-around linebackers in college football. There’s been a buzz about him the last month or six weeks. The buzz has been he does everything well. I’m not sure he has one outstanding trait where you go, ‘Wow, that’s awesome.’ But he does everything well.”
The stats back it up, too. In addition to his 26 career sacks, he’s also forced 11 fumbles, recorded seven interceptions and scored five defensive touchdowns during his time at BYU.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of things that people around me haven’t done,” Van Noy said. “I scored five career touchdowns playing defense, so I feel like I’m an offensive player on defense.”
Van Noy may have a knack for the big play, but he has a simple approach.
“Every time you get a sack, you try to get the ball out,” Van Noy said. “Quarterbacks, some can’t see you from the backside or some are looking downfield when you’re coming from the front side.
“At the end of the day it’s all about getting the ball.”
Mayock said Van Noy’s versatility will also help him come the draft.
“He did rush, he can drop, he can play inside, outside,” Mayock said. “People are trying to figure out where best to play him. His versatility is a huge plus. I’ve got him as a solid second rounder right now and I think he’s going to be a real good NFL player.”
Van Noy is banking on it. The Cougars did not improve win-wise in 2013 — they finished 8-5, just like they did in 2012 — but when asked at the combine if he thinks he should have came out after last season, he had no regrets.
“Not necessarily — I don’t want to take anything back,” Van Noy said. “I learned a lot this year. I graduated and I enjoyed the process.”
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