BOZEMAN, MONT. – Troy Andersen has always been electrifyingly fast. From the moment he could run he was sprinting, and people took notice every time he was in motion.
"I swear, from when he was five years old, every coach he ever had in all of these different things were like, 'Oh my gosh, the motor that kid has. Look at him,'" Troy's mom, Nicole Andersen, said.
Rick Nordahl was one of those coaches. He would eventually coach Troy throughout his high school career at Beaverhead County High School in Dillon, Mont. They would win state championships together but, when Andersen was younger, Nordahl would marvel at the sheer speed he saw from a little boy playing flag football with the kids of the community, his own son one of them.
Years later, the football world saw that speed live at the NFL combine in 2022, when Andersen turned in a 40-yard dash the state of Montana won't soon forget. But before that, Andersen was just a kid with speed that no one could overlook in a town of 5,000.
Perhaps more than any impression Troy Andersen made on Nordahl in high school, the first impression of that brown-haired, blue-eyed boy with a long and lanky build and endless energy, that's the one that sticks with him the most as that same kid enters into his second NFL season with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I remember him sprinting around, taking down flags and usually taking down players that were two years older than him, catching them from behind without any problem or taking an angle on them," Nordahl said. "His speed was unlimited. He had no woah to his go."
Nordahl laughs at the memory now, nearly two decades removed from those flag football days. He remembers parents getting a little disgruntled at Andersen for the knocks he gave their kids. It was all innocent, though, Nordahl said, because Andersen couldn't help it.
"No one knew the inability to stop once he got going," Nordahl said. "He was just so fast."
That speed mesmerized Nordahl then. Fast forward many years later, and it's this captivation that keeps a specific video recording always on Nordahl's phone. It's a moment that reassured him that the speed of which he'd always been fascinated with wasn't a mirage. It wasn't a memory of a little boy of five years old. It was real, now depicted in a man of 22.
The football world finally got to see what Nordahl and the Andersen family had been witnessing for years when Andersen knelt down into his runner's stance at the NFL Combine for the 40-yard dash.
Andersen was the first to run in his group. As he knelt at the starting line, he took one breath. Then, another. In and out. Andersen paused his breathing as his arm went back. Then, the explosion of his body launched forward.
It took 4.42 seconds for Andersen to cross the finish line. He was originally clocked at 4.41, but the number changed to 4.42 when the time became official. That hundredth of a second didn't matter though, it was still the fastest time by a linebacker at the NFL Combine last year.
More than that, it was 4.42 seconds those back home in Montana won't forget. Why? Because those 4.42 seconds put Andersen, his speed and talents, in the football spotlight.
Bobby Daly, Troy Andersen's former linebackers coach at Montana State, remembers exactly where he was when he watched Andersen drop that 40 time.
There was a basketball game on campus that day and a group of Montana State coaches were in attendance. They left the game early, though, heading across the street to a bar with a television. They asked for the NFL Combine to be turned on.
They watched as a familiar face approached the starting line first. As Andersen took a couple cleansing breaths, those with Daly at the bar held theirs. When the unofficial time flashed across the screen, Daly said it's something he won't forget any time soon.
"I've never seen an explosion of people excited about a 40 at a combine at a bar like that," Daly recalled.
It was a moment that held a little vindication for Andersen's former position coach. For months, Daly had been trying to accurately describe just how fast Andersen was.
Daly told many of the NFL scouts that Andersen had a speed quite unlike any others. He would tell them all the same thing: "I think he runs 4.4s."
He was met with skepticism.
"By and large, these scouts hear that from a lot of people, I'm assuming," Daly said. "I kind of got a couple looks like, 'Yeah, whatever. A 4.4? You can put two tenths on that because this guy doesn't know what he's talking about. He's just advocating for his player.'"
The advocation was warranted, though, as Andersen did what Daly had been telling people he could do for months. Finally, they could believe him, because the proof was there.
"I felt like he was the fastest player on the field every time and in every game that we got into," Daly said as a reason he knew Andersen's speed would turn heads, which it surely did in that moment when the official time of 4.42 came in.
Across town, Brent Vigen was in his car. The Montana State head coach and his wife had a busy day of engagements. With him in the driver's seat, his wife had the NFL Combine pulled up on her phone so the two could keep track of Andersen's day. Vigen said that even knowing Andersen's speed and having seen it in person, to know a 240-pound guy could move like that? It's still pretty remarkable, so much so that you almost can't believe what you're seeing.
"We knew he would go there and put up numbers," Vigen said. "That 40 that he ran in particular, I would guess that you could go across our state and there are a lot of people that remember where they were when Troy ran that 40.
"That was a big event in the state of Montana, because everybody's behind him."
That included Andersen's family, of course, who were all just as curious about Andersen's speed as the rest of the state. They, too, were tuned in.
Andersen's sister, Holly Finch, explained it best, saying that when her brother entered the 2022 NFL Draft there was this looming idea that you don't necessarily know where he will stack up against other people across the country.
"Just being in Montana, it's like, oh, well he's pretty good for Montana," Holly said, "but how is he going to do against everybody else?'"
Andersen himself felt that same weight of uncertainty.
"Yeah, there are definitely nerves," he said. "It's not necessarily doubt, but it's uncertainty about where you played or how good you are until you see everybody else in person."
The Senior Bowl, held a few weeks prior to the start of the NFL Combine, helped Andersen shake off that uncertainty. It was there in Mobile, Ala., that he began feeling that, yes, he belonged in the conversation with some of these players he'd watched on TV.
The Senior Bowl was a proving ground for Andersen. The NFL Combine, particularly that 40-yard dash, was when everyone else saw the proof.
"I think at that point, everything was real," Holly said. "It was like, 'Oh, yeah, he does fit in at this level and he has potential to play.' That was really exciting and I think it was a huge confidence boost for him. I think he always struggled with, 'Am I good enough?' Because it's hard to know when you don't have these metrics. So, that day was really exciting for him."
It was a moment that caught the eyes of the Falcons coaches and decision-makers, too, all of whom were in attendance in Indianapolis.
"I wasn't expecting it," Falcons linebackers coach Frank Bush said of Andersen's 40 time. "You know, everybody reports big-time speed in the press guide, but when you actually see it, and he actually did it, it's just, 'Wow.'"
And after, "Wow," came another thought immediately on its heels.
"Hopefully, we have a shot at that guy," Bush remembered thinking as Andersen's 40 time flashed before his eyes at the combine.
So, yes, that day meant a lot to Andersen's story, sure, but it likely meant even more to those watching back home in Montana. They were watching - and supporting - as one of their own stood out amongst the country's best competitors. They were proud, and still are.
Join us as we visit the college town of Bozeman, Montana, as part of a long-form Atlanta Falcons feature exploring the origins of Troy Andersen's Montana roots.
With snow falling outside the window at Beaverhead County High School in downtown Dillon, Nordahl reached into his pocket to grab his phone. He knew what the date was. It was March 5, 2023, exactly one year since Andersen ran the 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine.
He pulled up the video of that official 4.42 run. He watched it again, remembering the little boy that used to run circles around fellow kids on the flag football field. Then, he pulled up a contact: Scott Andersen, Troy's dad.
Attaching the video, Nordahl sent a message simply saying: "A year ago today."
Within moments, Scott responded: "Yeah, that was a lot of fun."
And it was, for a lot of people in Montana.
"A year ago, he was running a 4.42," Scott said, "just a little kid from Dillon, Montana."