“It’s pretty crazy and I’m really blessed to be in the opportunity," LDS linebacker Kyle Van Noy says about heading to his second Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.
Last year, Van Noy helped the Patriots pull off the greatest comeback in football history as they overcame a 25 point deficit to the Atlanta Falcons, ultimately winning the game in overtime.
Van Noy, who is on the Patriots' roster for this year's Super Bowl LII, is a former BYU linebacker who credits his faith, his family, and BYU for much of his success today.
Van Noy's outlook on his faith began to change as a teenager when his mother forced him to go to a fireside given by former BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I didn't want to be there at all," Van Noy remembers in a 2014 interview with KSL. "I told [my mom], 'I am not going to youth conference and I am not going to BYU,' and I happened to do both of those. . . . Funny how that works."
During the fireside, Van Noy explains the moment everything began to change, "It wasn't just about football. It was more about life. . . . That moment I started then questioning myself with, you know, 'Am I really doing everything I can to keep my faith strong and be a better light to people and encourage people to be better?'" Van Noy says.
After graduating high school, Van Noy made the unexpected decision to attend BYU. About his four years with the Cougars, Van Noy shares, "I am not your average LDS person, and I gave light to those that were struggling," showing others they can come back and triumph after mistakes.
"I'm glad and grateful that I went to BYU," he says, explaining how he relied on prayer and "spiritual confirmation" to govern his decision of finishing his four years at BYU instead of leaving early to join the NFL.
"I'm really grateful," Van Noy says. "I'm grateful to have people that are strong in the church around me. I'm grateful for a mother who cares for me and who would do anything in her power to see me smile and make me happy."
Other Mormon Connections to Super Bowl LII
But Van Noy is not the only Mormon heading to the Super Bowl. Though not expected to play in the game, Mormon linebacker Trevor Reilly and former BYU and linebacker Harvey Langi are part of the New England Patriot team. (Another interesting Mormon connection to Super Bowl LII is that the Philadelphia Eagles' coach, Doug Pederson, used to play for and coach under LDS NFL coach Andy Reid, who was the head coach of the Eagles from 1999 to 2012).
Reilly, a member of the Patriot's practice squad, served an LDS mission to Sweden in 2007-2009. Several years ago, when Reilly discovered his infant daughter had a cancerous one-pound tumor in one of her kidneys, he said in a 2014 interview, “I used to think football is so important, school is so important. I found out quickly that (it is) God first and then my family and then everything else after that.”
Within the last few months, Reilly has had a "roller coaster ride" with the Partiots, signing to their practice squad on October 12, 2017, being promoted to their active roster on October 25, getting waived by the team on December 26, and then re-signing to the practice squad on January 3, 2018.
About this continual change, Reilly told the Deseret News, "I always tell people life could be worse. Any problems I have are very first-world problems. I still have a job, still have a family, my kids are healthy. If I get released from a team here or there it’s not the end of the world to me. . . . I mean, you just have to believe that things are going to be okay. . . . I always tell people whatever hurts you doesn’t really hurt you, if you can make it through. It builds character. It’s good for you. I’m a firm believer in all that stuff, man. Bad things happen but you’ve got to move on in life. You’ve got to move forward, no matter what it is."
LDS linebacker Harvey Langi played in one game for the Patriots before going on injured reserve after he and his wife were involved in a car accident.
After the accident, the Today Show shared the touching reunion of Harvey and his wife, Cassidy, who were both hospitalized. About that moment, Cassidy posted on Instagram, "We are so completely blessed to have each other to lean on through all of this craziness. We are so grateful for all of our family and friends who have taken the time to come visit us, reached out to us, prayed for us, and have shown us their love and support. Our hearts are completely full right now ❤️ I just want my husband . . . to know how blessed I am to be your wife. I know this is a huge trial we will be facing but I know we can get through this together, day by day."
In 2017, after Langi signed with the Patriots, the Boston Globe highlighted the way Langi's two-year mission changed his life. “[The mission] for sure changed me. . . . I just knew what I wanted to be, knew what I wanted to do. Every day I am working to keep accomplishing that,” Langi told the Boston Globe.
He continues: “Every single day, out serving others and preaching the Gospel, it put a lot of things in perspective for me, and opened my eyes to see the bigger picture of what I wanted in the future. . . . I feel like I have been blessed, and will keep feeling blessed if I keep doing the things I know are correct.”