FOXBORO — Kyle Van Noy was basically given away for free by the Detroit Lions.
A 2014 second-round pick, this linebacker fizzled out with his first NFL team before his third NFL season was even over. After seven starts and one career sack in three seasons, the writing was on the wall long before the Lions traded him to the Patriots.
It was easy to see how the Lions viewed this linebacker when the trade compensation was announced. Van Noy was dealt, along with a seventh-round pick, to the Patriots for a sixth-round selection. Detroit moved up 24 spots in the later rounds of the draft just to get Van Noy off their hands.
Little did anyone know, Bill Belichick’s trade with the Lions might just be among the best in Patriots history. Three years later, Van Noy has been a part of two Super Bowl winning teams in Foxboro and one of the Patriots key figures on defense.
This 28-year-old’s dreams have come true and he’s silenced his doubters. It doesn’t mean he’ll ever forget about that chip on his shoulder.
“I think (after experiencing) those low times, I’ll never take these times for granted,” Van Noy said on Tuesday. “I never had to struggle necessarily with athletics. I’ve been the best at whatever sport I’ve played. And to have the struggles that I did in Detroit, I learned a lot. I learned a lot of good things and bad things and how to deal with it, and I was able to (come) here and put things together and have teammates and coaches trust me and do the best of my ability to play.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise by now.
Belichick found gold in Mike Vrabel when he barely played in Pittsburgh. The Patriots then did the same exact thing with Rob Ninkovich, who fizzled out in New Orleans and Miami. Both Vrabel and Ninkovich played a vital outside linebacker/edge rushing role in the Patriots defense. Over the last two seasons, Van Noy has carried that torch.
After playing close to 60% of the Patriots defensive snaps in 2016, following the trade, Van Noy has proven to be a full-time starter in the NFL. In 2017, he started 12-of-13 games, finishing with a career-high 73 tackles, 5.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. That one year surpassed the production Van Noy had in two and a half seasons in Detroit – 36 tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits in 30 games.
Van Noy admitted there were moments with the Lions were he didn’t think he’d find that success.
“Yeah. Of course. There was a lot of times,” Van Noy said. “I think when you go to a situation where you’re labeled a bust or things weren’t working out, but just wasn’t clicking, you start to question your athletic ability and just life in general. ‘Am I doing everything right?’ I think to stay positive and keep the people, your family, close that are always encouraging you and your friends that are always encouraging you close. Just try to grind through it. That’s what I tried to do. Now, it’s paid off and hopefully will continue to pay off.”
Last season, Van Noy took it a step further.
He started all 16 regular season games and the Patriots three playoff games. Van Noy set another career high with 92 tackles and 10 quarterback hits to go with 3.5 sacks. In the playoffs, he was masterful alongside linebacker Dont’a Hightower. In three postseason contests, Van Noy finished with three sacks, 18 tackles, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He registered three quarterback hits in Super Bowl LIII alone.
Once given away by the Lions, Van Noy has more than proved his worth hear in Foxboro. In the end, he he’s stronger because of his journey.
“I think it’s just kind of life. You go through ups and downs, there’s good times and bad times, and it’s been good here,” Van Noy said. “Everybody’s been good to me, including you guys, which I appreciate. And at the end of the day, I’m just trying to win and honestly do my part and do whatever is asked, whether it’s to rush, cover, do it all and just help out the defense as best as possible.”