Ask yourself: Could you be ready for a new job in four days?
And if that job involved throttling your body against 300-pound men, how prepared could you be in less than a week?
The Ravens signed Kyle Van Noy on Sept. 27. Four days later, the 32-year-old was in action against the Cleveland Browns, playing 23 snaps after months out of football. Five games into his Baltimore tenure, Van Noy likes to play up the curve he experienced. He told ESPN host Pat McAfee last month: “I’ve been balling off the couch!”
But “the couch” is figurative for Van Noy, a linebacker who has never really starred for any of his teams but has been solid just about everywhere he’s been. That includes his Ravens stint, in which he’s accrued three sacks in five games. Saying he sprang from his couch belies the work Van Noy did to stay prepared for a phone call, which he ultimately got from Baltimore to play in his 10th NFL season.
If Van Noy gets his way, there will be a lot more production — this season and beyond.
“I just feel like I have a lot more in the tank,” he said last week. “I feel like I’m in my prime. I know this is a — what everyone says — a young man’s league, but I believe it’s also an experienced man’s league.”
A second-round pick out of BYU in 2014, Van Noy has at times been a polarizing player. He was drafted by Detroit into a defensive scheme that didn’t fit his strengths, he’s said, and was used largely in a reserve role. New England’s Bill Belichick, widely considered the best defensive coach of all time, traded for him, and Van Noy became a key player, appearing in three Super Bowls and winning two.
He parlayed that success into a $51 million four-year deal with the Dolphins, after Miami hired Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores as head coach. He lasted only a year there before the franchise descended into chaos (Van Noy went into detail on that in a recent appearance on Marlon Humphrey’s podcast).
Throughout it all, Van Noy has strived to be consistent in his preparation and availability. He’s worked with trainer Dave Daglow for the last nine years, going through activations and other exercises that Daglow says help “undo” the wear and tear that football can cause on the body, and it has paid off. Van Noy played at least 13 games in his previous eight NFL seasons.
Van Noy was still doing these sessions this offseason, when no teams were calling.
“When there didn’t seem to be a lot of leads, there can be a lot of ups and down to stay with it,” Daglow said. “‘Why am I doing this' or ‘Is this worth it?’ are questions a person asks. I think where [Van Noy] is at right now is: ‘I’m thankful that I did this. I wouldn’t have been ready to come off the couch if I hadn’t.’”
As a younger man, it was common for Van Noy to spend weeks at a time in Calabasas, California, with Daglow, going through two- or three-a-day workouts designed to maximize his skills as a pass rusher.
He’s not so young anymore. Van Noy has a wife, Marissa, and two young children, Trey (4 years old) and Giavanna (1 1/2). His offseason home is in Lehi, Utah, so now he flies out for three days at a time to complete in-person workouts with Daglow, then does more workouts with cones in his backyard with his son watching. He makes time for his fitness, but other leisure activities have fallen by the wayside. “Instead of watching college football on Saturday, I’m taking my kids to the zoo,” he said, laughing.
His conditioning allowed him to complete the Ravens’ conditioning workout — six 150-yard sprints in 29 seconds each, with 90 seconds of rest in between — on his own over the summer. “Not [a] bad lil work out!” Van Noy posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, in July. At the time, he was looking for work and trying to show the league he was ready.
He was in the dark in those months before the Ravens called, working out without any sort of understanding that any team would pick him up. His last game of 2022 was also one of the most disappointing: a playoff loss with the Chargers, in which the defense surrendered a 27-point lead. But Van Noy never thought it would be his last appearance in the NFL: “I’m just confident in who I am as a player. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve made plays.”
Now in Baltimore, Van Noy will do a workout for an hour with Daglow over FaceTime before team practices themselves. They aren’t physically exhausting, but to most people they would be tedious. Van Noy isn’t most people.
“I’ve seen Kyle in a lot of empty gyms over the years,” Daglow said. “In my opinion, he’s the ultimate professional.”
Van Noy was a standout playmaker at BYU, but he realized early on that he was not one of the NFL’s elite talents. In a league of athletic freaks, his upside was limited by comparison. But he knew he could be consistent.
Van Noy would instruct people to look at his record. In each of his last four seasons, he’s had at least five sacks. He was a solid piece of the latter years of New England’s dynasty, and his career record in NFL games is 88-45 (and 8-5 in the postseason). His teams, by and large, succeed, and Van Noy feels he fits well into winning cultures — one of the reasons the Ravens appealed to him when they called.
“That’s one thing about me — I win games,” Van Noy said. “I win more than I lose, and I hope to continue that streak.”
The 10-year mark is significant to Van Noy. He recognized early that it wouldn’t be easy to catch on in the NFL, or to stay. Now that he’s played in a few games, he feels this season “counts,” he quipped last week. He’s told Daglow that, if he manages to pile up 10 sacks or more this season (admittedly a lofty goal for someone with 36.5 career sacks), they’ll be back in the gym next spring.
But, in the larger scope, Daglow thinks what Van Noy has achieved in balancing his career with his personal life merits plaudits. He’s stayed consistent on the field while getting married, having children, expanding his media pursuits and cultivating his second sporting passion on the golf course. He juggles more now, yet still finds time for the habits that have kept him in the NFL for a decade.
“I think he knows he belongs, and he knows you gotta keep proving it every year,” Daglow said. “That in and of itself is a competitiveness with oneself. He thinks, ‘I can still do this. I want to do this.’ It’s a good feeling to push yourself that way.”
Van Noy has two Super Bowl rings, and while he avoids comparing his 2016 and 2018 Patriots teams to the Ravens, he obviously hopes for a third championship on the mantel someday. Ten years in the league was one goal — now it’s time to reach for another.
“It’s always awesome to reach a milestone that not many people can say they’ve done; it’s always been in the back of my mind.” he said. “At the same time, I’m never satisfied. We just gotta keep at it.”