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Provo • Six months ago, BYU's potential All-America linebacker, Kyle Van Noy, was scared for one of the few times in his life. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior from Reno, Nev., was about to undergo surgery on a shoulder that had been bothering him for about three months, and his future as a star on BYU's defense was somewhat in doubt.
That's why Van Noy had a huge grin on his face Tuesday around lunchtime, having met with a team doctor earlier in the day.
"I got good news," Van Noy said. "I got cleared, and I am ready to play."
Van Noy has said he's felt 100 percent healed for a while now, but the doctor's OK means he can get fully padded up and participate in all the contact drills that he has missed since the Cougars' camp started nearly two weeks ago.
"It means everything," he said. "The last six months [were full of] growing pains and ups and downs. Therapy has been pretty intense. I am happy to be done with it. I am happy to be blessed with this strong shoulder."
And BYU's defense is happy, too, because Van Noy is the unit's one true playmaker, perhaps that element that enables the Cougars to attack, rather than be attacked.
"He's a difference-maker," said linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga.
Question is, can he live up to the hype?
"I am looking at it like I have to prove the whole world wrong," Van Noy said. "That's how I have been my whole life. I have had people doubt me since I was 5 years old, playing against 7-year-olds. So it starts from there, and I am going to keep that mindset until I am done playing this game, because that's what has got me here.
"At the same time, I am grateful to be blessed with the ability that I have, and the coaching that I get, and the people that I surround myself with."
Van Noy believes he can hit the ground running, and fully expects to play in Thursday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium. However, he will be eased back in, erring on the side of caution.
"We are thinking long term as well as short term on this," he said. "All I know is that I will be fully ready to play in the opener, and that's always been the ultimate goal."
Although Van Noy has put in all the necessary work in the weight room he now bench presses more weight than he did before the surgery and has done massive amounts of conditioning work, he is still itching to engage in some real contact, contact that hasn't happened since December's Armed Forces Bowl.
"He's pretty much game-ready, ready to go," said Poppinga. "So we will see what happens. He's 100 percent ready. He's told me that. Just watching him out here, you can see that. I am 100 percent confident that he will go in there and be able to perform at the same level, if not a higher level, than he did last year."
And that's a pretty high level. Van Noy was the team's top defensive playmaker last year leading BYU in tackles for loss (15) and tied with safety Travis Uale in interceptions (three). He almost single-handedly won the Ole Miss game by forcing a fumble and returning it for a touchdown, and was the only player in college football last year to record a stat in every major defensive category.
"Kyle is a special talent," said Poppinga, himself a former standout BYU linebacker. "He's big, he's fast, he's strong and the thing that really sets him apart like other guys I've played with such as Bryan Kehl and David Nixon, is that he understands the game exceptionally well. Really, it is like having another coach out there on the field."
A bit on the grumpy side the last few weeks, Van Noy was back to his old self after getting the clearance on Tuesday. He even joked around after fellow linebacker Uona Kaveinga was tossed out of practice for putting a hit on running back Mike Alisa that coach Bronco Mendenhall was outside the rules of contact established when the Cougars are only in helmets and shoulder pads.
"It gets chippy. It is like playing a game of one-on-one basketball with your dad, that type of deal. We are the offense's dad," he said, laughing. "Just playing. … It is nothing no grudges held. It is just competition, and we are happy for it. We are happy to see each side battling and getting better. I think that's most important thing that we need to look at, is everyone's getting better every day. So that's the big key to that."
Kyle Van Noy file
• Named to three all-independent teams after standout sophomore season.
• Only college football player last year to record a stat in every major defensive category.
• Second on the team last year with 68 tackles, and first in tackles for loss (15). Also had seven sacks, 10 quarterback hurries.
• Tied for team high last year with three interceptions.