What were you doing this time one year ago? If you’re a big Indianapolis sports fan, then you were most likely still cursing the San Diego Chargers and their disposal of the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs for a second straight year. Has your life changed all that much? New house, new car, new job maybe? No matter what your personal journey has been over these last 365-days, chances are it has not been as life altering as Colts offensive linemen Kyle De Van’s last 12 months.
See, this time last year, Kyle was not commiserating with his fellow Indianapolis teammates. Instead, De Van was just hoping for the chance to have teammates.
From the second the Colts clinched their Super Bowl ticket two weeks ago against the New York Jets, both the Indianapolis media and other outlets from all over the world have been focusing on the big name players. Don’t get me wrong, I want to know everything Peyton Manning is thinking leading up to Super Bowl 44; and Pierre Garcon’s breakout game coupled with his pride in his Haitian genealogy could not have come at a better time. Just yesterday, I wrote about Dwight Freeney’s torn ankle ligament and what it means to his chances of playing in SB 44.
So why am I making a fuss about a player most Hoosiers probably could not name or pick out of a lineup of two? Because this time last year Kyle De Van was a substitute teacher in his hometown of Vacaville, CA living in his parent’s basement.
De Van grew up in Vacaville and went on to play collegiate football at Oregon State. After graduating in 2008, he was signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent only to be cut before training camp even started. From there the 6-foot-2, 306- pound De Van was picked up by the New York Jets, cut in training camp, and resigned by the Jets later last season only to be cut a third time from their practice squad.
With no job and no money, it was back to the West Coast and the substitute-teaching gig. Not ready to give up on his childhood dream of playing professionally, De Van signed a contract with the Boise Burn of the arenafootball2 league.
Under the guidance of team president Bill Polian, the Indianapolis Colts have long been regarded as one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. So when someone noticed the talent of the Boise Burn linemen, De Van was asked to this past spring’s training camp.
“The thing that helped me was that I had nothing to lose,” DeVan said. “If they didn’t want me, I would have gone back to arena2.”
Well the Colts did want him. And, in less than a full season, Kyle is now tasked with protecting one of Indiana‘s pride and glories, Peyton Manning.
“It’s been the longest year of my life,” DeVan said during this past week of Colts preparation. “But at the same time, it’s been the funnest year of my life. It’s just been tremendous.”
Reflecting on not only this Super Bowl opportunity, but on his past in general, Kyle had this to say: “When you think about it, not many guys get to play in the Super Bowl, it’s really neat, it’s been a dream year.”
“My mom and dad and the family, they’ve been through a lot of three-day wrestling tournaments, Friday night football games, games in the rain up at Oregon State,” he said. “They’ve been there for me all the time, and it’s great to be able to bring them to the game and share it with them.”
As said earlier, the Indianapolis Colts have a knack for finding those diamond in the rough players that no other teams think can hack it in the NFL. Two names that immediately come to mind are four time Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday and defensive stalwart Gary Brackett.
So, when watching all the interviews and sound bites from the experienced and polished players like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Robert Mathis this week, just remember that they are not untouchables. Some, if not most of these players are just normal Joes who happen to excel athletically. I dare say there are not too many among us who can’t relate with De Van’s situation. Out-of-work and crashing on the ‘rents couch for a couple of nights is a time honored tradition nowadays.
With so much hype and bull being spouted this week leading up to the Super Bowl, take solace in Kyle De Van’s story. He is a perfect example that hard work and dedication really can pay off if you refuse to take no for an answer.