For the eighth time in 10 seasons, Kyle Van Noy is playing playoff football.

The former BYU star and his top-seeded Ravens will host the upstart Houston Texans in Saturday’s AFC divisional round action. The game will be a rematch of a contest from Week 1 of the regular season, when Baltimore prevailed 25-9.

While his teammates are familiar with the opponent, the same can’t be said for Van Noy. He wasn’t there on that cloudy September day. He was a free agent, unsure of what his professional future would hold and waiting for any possible opportunity.

Once the Ravens came calling a few weeks later, he began using his time “on the couch” as fuel on the field.

“I keep that chip on my shoulder that I wasn’t wanted by a lot of teams,” Van Noy told reporters Wednesday. “I’m grateful for the Ravens reaching out, believing in me and throwing me in. ... I’ve been hitting the ground running, and it’s awesome.”

Simply reaching a 10th season in the NFL had long been something Van Noy “really wanted to accomplish,” but the veteran has gone even further to turn his decade mark into the finest campaign of his career.

He’s posted a personal-best nine sacks, forced a pair of fumbles and recorded 48 quarterback pressures, emerging as one of the cornerstone pieces of the league’s top defensive unit while endearing himself to the blue-collar Baltimore fan base with his gritty, unselfish style of play.

Most importantly, Van Noy has quickly established himself as a vocal clubhouse leader and mentor for younger Ravens players, drawing from his own postseason success to help pave the way forward for a trip to Super Bowl LVIII next month.

Related
Kyle Van Noy is back on an NFL roster. How he fits in with the Baltimore Ravens

“He was the perfect Ravens pickup,” said Zach Bollinger, a Baltimore-based content creator and co-host of the “Ryan Ripken Show” who has been one of Van Noy’s loudest online supporters since his arrival, to the Deseret News. “He has this new life about him as a player, and each week you’ll see two or three plays from him where he’s probably the most disruptive force on the field ... at least once a drive, he’s making an impact play.”

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even in a training camp this summer.

“I just feel like I have a lot more in the tank,” Van Noy told The Baltimore Banner. “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.”

He continued, “I’m just confident in who I am as a player. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve made plays.”

Kyle Van Noy’s BYU career

Such playmaking began in Provo. In four years as a Cougar, Van Noy racked up 226 tackles (61.5 for loss), 25 sacks, seven interceptions, five forced fumbles and two touchdowns.

One of his college coaches — BYU special teams coordinator and defensive line coach Kelly Poppinga — calls Van Noy “the best defensive player” in the program’s history. Plenty of others would agree.

“He’s the most instinctive (athlete) I’ve ever been around, and it’s not even close,” Poppinga told the Deseret News. “This guy could do it all. He could tackle, he got interceptions, he blocked punts, he scored touchdowns, he just did everything.”

While at BYU, Van Noy’s coaches would often get to the football offices at 5:30 a.m. to find him already deeply immersed in film study. Such habits ultimately developed him into “an incredible student of the game” who reportedly learned Baltimore’s defense in a week and hopped into the mix without skipping a beat.

“The guy is always learning, studying and trying to find that advantage,” Poppinga said. “I think he’s brought that to a whole new level here in the NFL.”

Kyle Van Noy’s career renaissance

This Mensa-level football IQ made Van Noy impossible to take off the field during his stops in New England, Miami and Los Angeles. He was utilized in a number of different packages and offered versatility as a run-stopper, pass rusher and off-ball linebacker.

With the Ravens, Van Noy has played 95.6% of his 485 snaps from the edge and has been primarily tasked with rushing the passer — resulting in his jump in sack totals. But he’s still managing to find his way to the bottom of every pile and unleash havoc by any means necessary.

Related
While determined to leave, Kyle Van Noy is glad he decided to stay at BYU

“He goes 110 miles an hour every play,” Bollinger said. “He doesn’t care about anything other than helping this team win football games, and it’s that mentality that has really helped take this defense to another level.”

Above all else, Van Noy is a winner. His teams are 95-47 in games he’s appeared in since debuting in 2014. He’s won eight playoff games and earned two Super Bowl rings with New England, picking up sacks in both championship contests.

But this current chance at a title is different.

To begin the year out of football and end it hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for a third time would be the stuff of legend. Van Noy needed this Ravens squad, and now it needs him to pen another prolific postseason performance.

No matter the end result, however, Van Noy will always be admired in Charm City.

“He embodies what Baltimore football is about,” Bollinger said. “It’s not about who’s the fastest or strongest, it’s always gonna be built on toughness, and that’s Kyle Van Noy.”

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Kyle Van Noy takes to the field before a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Baltimore. The former BYU star is one of the cornerstones of the Ravens defense. | Nick Wass, Associated Press