In life, professional comfort is important. Most of the time, if people land in a work environment where even one familiar face can greet and nurture them, the chances of them having success on the job go up infinitely.
With the Detroit Lions, rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy will have that chance immediatly, considering his former BYU teammate Ziggy Ansah is already on the squad. Both Ansah and Van Noy share a bond beyond the game, a friendship that began on campus when Ansah was new to football.
“He has been such a great friend—a brother—going through this whole process,” Van Noy said in a story penned by MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “He’s reached out and has been awesome … I couldn’t ask for a better role model, since I’m not role modeling him anymore. The roles get a change.”
Ansah shared that sentiment, as last Friday night, he was almost in disbelief when his friend and former teammate was snapped up by his current team in the second round. Detroit’s aggressiveness to trade up for Van Noy has been greeted by widespread praise (with albeit one bit of trolling dissension), and most agree the Lions have likely found their outside linebacker for the next decade.
It’s not just because Van Noy is an excellent football player. Sure, those stats speak for themselves. Van Noy had more sacks in college than Jadeveon Clowney and more interceptions than Kyle Fuller, but none of that matters as a transition to the next level without comfort. Both Clowney and Fuller will be moving into situations where they’ll be forced to learn the lay of the land in faraway cities by themselves, or with others in their shoes. Sometimes, that part can be the biggest struggle for young players, and lead to trouble on and off the field.
In Detroit, Van Noy will already have Ansah, his old roommate and security blanket, to show him not just the NFL ropes but the Michigan ropes, as well. Additionally, if Ansah was perhaps feeling any loneliness or blues heading into his sophomore year in the league, he will have Van Noy at his immediate disposal to bridge the gap. It’s huge for the personal and professional development of each player.
For the Lions, that comfort is a huge factor few are talking about. Defensively, if both Ansah and Van Noy are feeling good mentally and then physically, Detroit becomes a quiet defensive force in the NFC, even in spite of questions in the secondary. Ansah off the edge and Van Noy rushing the passer and dropping back in coverage is quite a tandem for the opposition to contend with.
All of this makes Detroit’s modest move up from pick 45 to 40 in the second round to snag Van Noy look even better. In the process, Martin Mayhew also received a fifth round pick that would be dealt down and eventually become defensive tackle Caraun Reid, and in that same deal, a seventh round pick that netted Nate Freese, the Lions’ kicker of the future. Not bad maneuvering.
Everything good that happened in the second half of Detroit’s 2014 draft could have been kick started by a simple idea to pair a few close friends and comparable talents together on the same defense.
As far as draft strategies go, for Van Noy, Ansah and their Lions, this might end up becoming the best yet.