Mileage adds up for Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy on his football journey

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are still integrating some players into their defensive plans at this late juncture of the season, with linebacker Kyle Van Noy being one of them.

Acquired in a trade with the Detroit Lions on Oct. 26, Van Noy has played in each of the last two games, totaling five tackles and a sack. It’s been a positive first impression.

“He’s been good to work with, a versatile player,” coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s played on the line, off the line, defensive end, in the kicking game. He’s good in pass coverage and can rush. I think he’s got a lot of versatility for us, a good variety of skills.”

Donning No. 53 and taking up residence in Tedy Bruschi’s old corner locker, the 25-year-old Van Noy adopts an embrace-the-process mindset, is introspective and also happy to share a laugh, which came through as he shared his “football journey” as part of ESPN.com’s weekly series.

When he first started playing football: “When I was 5, flag football. My dad [Layne] worked Parks & Rec in California and he snuck me into his league. I was playing against 7- and 8-year-olds.”

First positions: “Running back. I was the Boobie Miles [smiling].”

Favorite teams and players growing up: “The Buccaneers. I picked them because I liked their colors. I grew up watching Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott, John Lynch, [Booger] McFarland, Simeon Rice, Keshawn [Johnson], Brad Johnson ... You can't forget about Ronde Barber. I could go on and on. Other than that, I didn’t really get into it. I thought I was going to be a baseball player, but my arm got thrown out. In college, I ended up finally saying, ‘I want to sacrifice four years [for football].’ I was suspended my first year in college [at Brigham Young], so that gave me some time to really think about what I like to do.”

Top memories at McQueen High School in Reno, Nevada: “It was fun. We were really, really good. I think seven kids from my high school went D-I all over the country -- Tennessee, Oregon, New Mexico State, Nevada, Oregon, Boise, Idaho and BYU. My junior year, we lost in the state finals to that team down in Vegas, Bishop Gorman. The cheaters! Then my senior year, they didn’t make it, they lost to Palo Verde, and we ended up beating them in the state finals.”

Enrolling at BYU: “I got recruited as an athlete, and then they told me I should play linebacker. And I said, ‘All right, sign me up.’ I had played receiver and a stand-up D-end/linebacker rusher type guy. It seemed like it was familiar and comfortable, but I didn’t know schemes and reading blocks and all that.”

Why he picked BYU: “Mom [Kelly] kind of made me [laughing] to get out of trouble. And I knew I needed to get into a new environment, and ended up being around family and friends. It was really good for me. I’m happy I did it.”

Top football memories at BYU, where he finished with 226 tackles and 26 sacks: “There’s so many, I don’t know. One has to be the game I scored two touchdowns on defense, the San Diego State game, the Poinsettia Bowl my junior year. Another game was a loss, at Boise, but defensively we never gave up a touchdown and had a goal-line stand. I didn’t know that was possible.”

When he knew the NFL might be possible: “I didn’t until probably the end of my junior year, when agents started calling and it got to serious mode. I felt like I needed to graduate and still needed to finish up my college career. I felt like the NFL would always be there, and the college experience isn’t. To kids, if you’re not a No. 1 solid overall pick -- top 15, top 25 or whatever -- I feel like you should stay in school and finish that out.”

Selected in the 2014 second round by the Lions: “That was a good day. My targeting range was between the 20th and 40th pick, and I went at the 40th pick. I was shocked I went to Detroit because I wasn’t familiar with their scheme and didn’t think they would pick me because I didn’t match what their system was. So it was shocking and good at the same time, and I got to play with my best friend [Ziggy Ansah] for two-and-a-half years. That was fun. I still miss playing with him.”

Lessons learned in Detroit: “A lot of them. I learned to trust the process and, no matter what, to always do it with a smile on your face because someone is always watching and they want to see how you react as a man and as a football player. You can always learn from every situation you’re in.”

Traded to the Patriots on Oct. 26, 2016: “A sigh of relief. I’m just very grateful for the position I’m in, the team I’m on, a good football team, coached very well. ... It’s football 24/7. Moving has been an adjustment, and hopefully when I’m able to write a book on my life, somebody will want to read it and this will be a chapter in there. There are things that go on outside of football that no one sees, no one talks about -- the transitioning into a whole new city and whatnot.”

What he loves about football: “So many things. I love competing, the challenges of each week, going against great players and playing with great players. That’s all fun to me. The grind that no one sees is probably the most fun for me, because everyone sees money, Sunday and all that crap. Which is good crap, don’t get me wrong. But it’s stuff that doesn’t progress you in life. It does in a sense, but for me personally, my own well-being, it doesn’t progress me because it’s all about the process and getting better each and every day.”

Role models growing up: “I didn’t have many. A lot of them weren’t good ones. I’d say my brother [Travis], he’s a loan officer in Utah. He’s a good man. My biggest hero is probably my wife [Marissa], because she’s gone through a lot in life and no one really knows that.”

Summing up his football journey: “I talk to people about the mileage, the many miles to get where I’m at -- from a little city in California, Stockton/Lodi, to Reno, Nevada. Utah. Detroit. And here. You reflect back on it and realize how blessed you are to play a kid’s game.”