By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – The Detroit Lions first laid eyes on linebacker Kyle Van Noy long before this past offseason. They could not help but notice him while preparing for the 2013 draft, when they were scouting his BYU teammate Ziggy Ansah, the defensive end who would become their first-round pick last year.
Even in the presence of a top-flight talent like Ansah, Van Noy stood out.
“We saw a lot of him playing last year, and it was really kind of, ‘Who is this guy?’” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said Friday night after Detroit traded up in the second round to snag the linebacker. “We’re watching Ziggy, and this guy’s making all these plays.”
The Lions spent time with Van Noy on several occasions leading up to the draft – at the Senior Bowl, at the team headquarters in Allen Park and at the NFL combine. Mayhew said each experience was a positive one and that Van Noy was Detroit’s primary target on the second day of the draft.
“There were about three or four guys that we targeted and said, ‘We’ve got to get one of these guys today,’” Mayhew said. “He was at the top of that list.”
Mayhew, head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin all lauded Van Noy’s versatility.
“When you look at being able to pressure from different parts of your defense and not always being static, you got to have some backers that have the ability to rush, and I think that’s what he does,” Austin said. “He gives us that ability. So he can drop in coverage, he can rush. He’s not just a guy when you put him on the field, you say, ‘Okay, hey, he’s going to rush every time.’ That’s not going to be him. He gives us flexibility that way.
“If you have a guy that can do both, in terms of protection, you may be able to get them to turn protection to him, do some different things that way, and that frees up some of your other guys because when you have a guy like that, a lot of times he’s a mismatch for a running back or maybe even a tight end if they keep a tight end in, so it works to your advantage that way,” Austin continued. “If they’re worried about him and they turn the protection, now you’ve got one guy blocking Ziggy, you’ve got one guy on the back side blocking someone else.”
Just a year removed from Ansah’s selection by the Lions, his college buddy will join him in Honolulu blue. Ansah called Van Noy right after the pick was made.
“He and Ziggy are really great friends,” Mayhew said. “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 Ziggy’s probably happy wherever he is right now, but this guy, he’s going to really help our football team. He’s going to fit in well here, too, and now he has somebody on the team he already knows, so it’s going to be a good situation for us I think.”
In his teleconference Friday, Van Noy sounded thrilled about the scenario, and he looked forward to being back in the same program with Ansah.
“He was just calling me teammate,” Van Noy said of Ansah’s congratulatory phone call. “He’s like a brother to me, so it’s good to be back on the same team and be able to go to work and chase a Super Bowl together.”
Austin said one aspect of Van Noy he appreciated most was his self-awareness. Van Noy’s senior season did not impress as much as his junior one, but Austin seemed confident the linebacker understood his shortcomings and could fix them.
“It just shows that I have stuff to work on,” Van Noy said. “Some things didn’t go my way, and sometimes I just missed opportunities, but I still had the heart in me to keep working through tough times. I’m excited that the Detroit Lions, even though I didn’t have what looked like a stellar season to those looking at stats … they watched enough film to see me be disruptive and take on double teams and things like that. I’m not really concerned.”