Kyle Van Noy making a difference for Patriots, and others who were adopted

Kyle Van Noy laughs as he is interviewed at Super Bowl LII Opening Night on Monday. Van Noy has become a critical part of the Patriots' defense and he hopes that his play can inspire those who were adopted like he was. EPA/CRAIG LASSIG

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- When New England Patriots starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy takes the field Sunday in Super Bowl LII, one of his dreams could once again be realized.

Yes, he'd like to win a second straight championship, but this particular dream is a bit different. It's more personal: Maybe there will be someone out there who watches him running around the field, making tackle after tackle, and says something like this:

I was adopted, too, and I can live a blessed life just like him.

Van Noy is using his NFL platform to help those in a similar situation to him: When he was just 3-4 months old, he was adopted in Las Vegas. His wife, Marissa, knows all about this, too; her father and brother were adopted.

"It's meaningful because I've lived it, it's a part of me, it's a part of my wife and her family," Van Noy said. "We really understand what it's like, what the process is like, and we've been positive outcomes of the situation we were in. So we like to share our message and hopefully it may go to someone else, or bounce off someone, like 'Man, if they made it through that situation.'

"I don't know how to explain it, but it's telling people it's OK to be born into this world in a different way and be with the family you're supposed to be with, and still be successful. That's kind of our message. It doesn't matter -- you can do it if you put your mind to it."

Van Noy, 26, is a shining example of it on the football field. He has become a critical part of the Patriots' defense since being acquired in a trade with the Lions on Oct. 26, 2016. His ability to play both on and off the line of scrimmage has been vital to the Patriots making it to this point, especially after losing captain Dont'a Hightower to a season-ending pectoral injury on Oct. 22. Van Noy finished third on the team with 73 tackles in the regular season, adding 5.5 sacks and two passes defended.

As his role has grown, so too has presence in the community. Through his Van Noy Valor Foundation, he provided 200 Christmas trees, lights and ornaments, and children's winter coats to 200 Boston-area foster families.

He held another event for his foundation during the season, at Skipjack's Restaurant, to raise awareness and funds, and it was attended by owner Robert Kraft and other players.

"As you're in the league for a while, you understand that everybody has a story. What's cool is that KV has taken his story and made sure he can help other people out with it," said safety Devin McCourty, one of his close friends on the team. "Just seeing how passionate he is about it. Guys can always just show up, but he's always into it, trying to make a difference."

His wife Marissa is usually by his side along the way. Van Noy said his marriage is one of the things he's most proud of, and told the story of how Marissa once looked at a picture of his family and asked about his roots because "I definitely don't look like my parents."

He had heard that question before, and it was comforting to hear Marissa's understanding because of her own family.

"It was always a question, it was just different, but then you realize 'these are my parents and everything is good and this is where I'm supposed to be'," he said.

That's the message Kyle and Marissa relay when they connect with others.

"The biggest thing is to spread love and happiness," said Van Noy, who doesn't know the details that led to him being adopted. "A lot of people talk about giving back all the time. We just want to back up what we're doing -- we talk about it and we actually do it. We want to spread awareness and spread love into the world. It's crazy what's going on in the world sometimes.

"For me, I just want everyone to choose love over anything. If I can do that by raising some money and giving a family that's never had Christmas before a Christmas, that means the world to me. Or even hanging out with somebody -- it's not even money, it's just time. For me giving time to somebody that I can have an impact on, that's what makes me go."

His teammates have noticed.

"When you talk to him from the exterior, you might not even know, but I've talked to him about high school, different things he went through, and he'd just tell you he feels blessed," McCourty said. "Different people that came into his life. He says he doesn't take it for granted. He knows he has a purpose. You put all that together, see things he does, it's a great sense of meaning of why he's doing what he's doing, and playing for us."

On Sunday, he'll be playing in the Super Bowl, and the stage doesn't get any bigger than that. For Van Noy, it's a chance to share his story again in hopes of making a difference.

"I bleed just like anybody else. I might not be the Average Joe, but I'm someone that struggles like everyone else, that goes through stuff like everybody else, that has battle through stuff like everybody else," he said. "But if you continue to work hard, you can get the goals and dreams you always wanted."