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Family and Friends hope for big NFL season for former Bobcat

By Kane O'Neill, KTVM Sports, koneill@ktvm.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 01:10:59 AM MST
Updated On: Aug 14 2013 08:14:55 PM MDT

New England Patriot pictures and memorabilia cover the walls of the Cannery in downtown Bozeman. They all have something in common, Dane Fletcher. It's a name many in Bozeman won't soon forget.

"That picture right here's where he sacked Matt Flynn," said Dane Fletcher's father Bob Fletcher, as he showed me around the Cannery. "We like that picture 'cause these guys are standing here saying, 'who the heck's Fletcher'?"

Bob is the owner of the Cannery, which to many in Bozeman is know as Gillette Stadium West.

"It's surreal really," says Bob. "It's a lot of fun to watch him and people in Bozeman are great supporters."

One thing you'll notice almost immediately is the star studded pictures of the Fletcher family along the walls, all with their own unique story.

"We were down the day before the Super Bowl," Bob said as he pointed to a photos lined on the wall. "My wife Kathy and I with Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, Coach Belichick. And we got to meet Tom Brady and you know, they're really good people," explained Bob.

The former MSU standout and current New England Patriot is coming off an ACL tear he suffered in the first game of the first quarter of the preseason last year. His former defensive line coach thinks he is ready to make a push for the starting job.

"I know that he's gonna fight to be the number one Mic linebacker," says MSU defensive line coach Bo Beck. "He wants to play in front of Brandon Spikes. But he'll have the patience to do what it takes out there."

Fletcher was a defensive star for the Bobcats as a defensive end. When he signed with the Patriots following the draft, Belichick informed him he would switch to linebacker and play in a 3-4 defense as opposed to MSU's 4-3, something Dane had to prepare for. He immediately went to Beck for help.

"We play a 4-3 here and they play 3-4 out there," says Beck. "When he came back after he signed his contract after OTAs (organized team activities) we talked coverages and things like that. He's a smart kid and was able to pick it up and worked hard to pick it up," Beck explains.

Bo also said that the first year in the NFL was the hardest for him, as there are many aspects you're not prepared for.

"The first year I know was hard. You know going into the NFL it's wasn't the physical part, he can handle that. It's the mental part of every mistake you make you're worried about being gone," says Beck.

Another big transition Dane had to make was moving to the east coast after going to high school and college here in Bozeman.

"It's big time when you get back there," says Bob. "He's lived with Rob Gronkowski the first 3 years there and it's surreal when you come from Bozeman, Montana and go into that atmosphere. But he's done a really good job we're extremely proud of Dane. He's just a very decent guy. He's built a house here in Bozeman and he intends to come back here and live when he's done with his career," Bob says.

One thing Dane hasn't forgotten is where he came from. As both Bob and Bo noted, when he comes back it'll be pretty quiet.

"It's very low key," says Bob. "He comes back and he wants to fish or hang with some buddies. He doesn't go out and play the role."

"We get to hang out when he comes home, he's fun to be around," Beck smiled. "He and his family have been good to me and I'm glad to have known him and been able to work with a great athlete. He made me a better coach."

One things for sure, come September 8th when the Patriots face the Buffalo Bills in their season opener, the Cannery will be the place to be in Bozeman. If you're rooting for the Pats, that is.