DILLON — Troy Andersen played at some of the most opulent stadiums in the NFL during his rookie season as a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, but his high school field — a bit more humble by comparison — still has the power to summon some powerful emotions.
"It's awesome, lots of memories," said Andersen of returning to his hometown and Vigilante Stadium where he was an all-state player his junior and senior seasons and helped guide the Beavers to the 2016 Class A football championship. "It's been a while since I've been able to come back.
"Every time you're back in Dillon you get nostalgic, you see all the great people that are here that have helped me along my way. Whether it be family or friends or old coaches. Dillon's extremely special to me and a place that I'll always love."
Andersen was back at his old stomping grounds Wednesday hosting a free youth football camp for hundreds of first through eighth graders. He's been a popular presence at other such camps across the state, but this was his first time hosting his own. An at-capacity turnout let him know that the effort was worth it.
"Obviously I had no idea, it was the first time we're trying to do something like this and I've had so many people help me," said Andersen, whose next stop after a standout run with the Beavers was an all-American career at Montana State.
The message he hoped the attendees took away from their afternoon at Vigilante was a mixture of the importance of determination and having people around you who are a positive influence.
"I guess it's just work, believing in yourself," Andersen said. "There's good people that surround you and trust and rely on them."
Andersen, a linebacker, turned heads during his rookie campaign with Atlanta, piling up 69 total tackles — including a season-best 13 stops during his first start in Week 6 against the 49ers.
With the Falcons slated to open the preseason Aug. 11 on the road against Miami, Andersen is determined to make his second season even more memorable than the first.
"Just continue to get better, try to get more playing time, play well and and win games," he said.
And his latest trip back to his hometown was a full-circle moment as he coached kids on the same field where he was once mentored and encouraged, not knowing then just how far from Dillon his gridiron journey would take him.
"When I was a kid I loved going to football camps with my friends," said Andersen. "And that's what our plan was, get them outside, run around and have some fun today."