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DILLON, MONT. – Holly Finch walked into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on New Year's Day, the lights and sounds only enhancing the energy around her. With a jersey branded with her maiden name and the No. 44 on her back, she was there to watch her little brother play the game he loves.

The Falcons were facing the Cardinals, and Troy Andersen was set to make the third start of his rookie year in front of a large contingent of family and friends from his home state of Montana.

As the energy inside the stadium built, and as Andersen ran out from the tunnel onto the field, smoke clouding the steps in front of him, Holly looked on.

In her mind, memories flashed before her eyes.


Troy at six years old, outpacing every little kid on the flag football field in Dillon, Mont. Troy at 16 and 17 years old, winning a state championship with Beaverhead County High School, rain pouring and mud sloshing as he held up the trophy that branded the Beavers the best of the best. Troy going to college at Montana State University, where his sister was already in school. Troy playing running back, quarterback, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, growing, shaping, evolving, thriving while playing for the Bobcats. Troy at 23 years old, on his way to Atlanta after being drafted by the Falcons with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Holly had seen it all, and as she watched Troy take the field in the second-to-last game of his rookie season, those are the moments that she held dear.

"I talk about his trajectory," she said, "and I see it all unfold. It's like, 'Wow, I'm so proud of you, and excited that this is your journey.' He's living out his purpose - I think - to his fullest."

Those weren't the only memories that came to mind, though. She also remembers all the moments shared with her brother while not on the football field. Those mean just as much, if not more.

Brother and sister looking out over miles and miles of open terrain of their home, the Andersen family's cattle ranch in Dillon, Mont. Living in a rural area, Holly and Troy were each other's built-in best friends.

"We rode bikes down the dirt road. We played with the animals. We rode horses. We played games with each other," Holly said. "Really, it was an amazing upbringing. I think, looking back and hearing different perspectives from people who have never been around our kind of lifestyle, it's like, 'Wow, this was amazing,' but to us, it was just normal."

In the summer, the large equipment needed to keep the ranch in working order was moved out of the shed on the family's land. It was a large, empty expanse that young Holly and Troy used to the fullest, according to their mom, Nicole. Bike rodeos were the pastime of choice.

"They would set up an oil can or something and they would be riding their bikes around it," Nicole said.

"Time us!" the duo would say to their parents.

When the kids were younger, the family lived in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. It was drafty and little mice infested until they got a hoard of cats to take care of the mice. Holly and Troy adored those cats, their parents said.

Days - those cold and mild - were spent together as a family. There were cherry-spitting contests to be had. Holly and Troy would pretend to be horses, frolicking across a field. They'd play in the creek when it was warm enough.

"Just doing the things that kids do, but it's just in this beautiful Montana setting that, really, we took for granted," Holly said. "... Just having him be my buddy, my adventure partner, my best friend all of those years, that shared experience was just incredible."

It wasn't all fun and games, though, because on a ranch there's work to be done. And from an early age, the family of four worked together.

During haying season, everyone had a different role in getting the work done. Typically, Troy would cut the hay. He spent a lot of time in the swather. Nicole would rake the hay, Holly would bail it and Scott would stack it.


When the growing herd of cows needed to be moved from one field to another, here the family of four went. These days, the family uses four wheelers to move the herd, but back then they were on horseback. Together, they always got the work done.

"They helped, and they were good help," Nicole said. "But it was just all about being together."

As their kids began to grow, so did their love of sports. In the Andersen family, work never came first for the kids; school and sports did. It's something Holly said she really admired about her parents and their choices for their children.

"They always encouraged us to do our own things and to go to our practices, kind of follow our dreams," Holly said. "It was never work over our hobbies and our sports."

Sports played a big role in Troy's life from the beginning. He wanted to try everything, play everything, be everything. And the entire time his family watched, they were in awe of his spirit. He never ceased to amaze them with his abilities, Nicole and Scott agreed. He just kept exceeding their expectations.

"Whatever he was doing that day, it was his favorite thing in the world," Nicole said. "... Everything that kid did it was with such gusto. He was so excited, and it was the best thing he ever did. It was the best day ever."

Montana days turned into seasons, and the work continued, but so did Troy's growth as a player. Soon, he was quarterbacking his high school team to state championships, winning others in basketball and track, too, along with fellow classmates who were equally driven.

"They all were unselfish kids, and they all wanted to win, and they did," Scott said. "There are a lot of banners in the high school because of those guys. It was a really fun time for us."


Troy's competitive spirit was evident from a young age. The family jokes that, for a time, the Andersen household had to take a break from playing board games or card games.

Holly loved to rile Troy up, Scott said. Perhaps she'd cheat a little bit, just enough to get her brother worked up. He was a perfectionist, and being so meant he followed the rules. Always.

"He would blow up and say, 'Well, I'm not going to play with you if you're not going to play right,'" Scott recalls Troy saying to his sister.

Troy - now a man and living on his own in Atlanta - still has a love for games of any kind. He's a particular fan of Catan. So much so that for Christmas Troy bought Holly and her husband a few games (Catan included) to keep at their house because they "didn't have enough board games at their house while he was staying there."

Speaking of which, when Troy does go home to Montana, he splits time between his family ranch in Dillon and his sister and brother-in-law's house in Bozeman.

"If you've ever played a board game with Troy, you'll understand his competitiveness," Holly said with a laugh. "I would say this stands true to this day."

Troy has always had impeccable recall and memory, too, which played into his perfectionist tendencies.

When he was younger, he loved NASCAR. Scott remembers Troy, no more than 10 years old, could name every single driver when the two were watching a Sunday afternoon race together, along with the full description of their cars.


By his high school days, Troy was holding one-on-one meetings over lunch with Zach McRae, the current Beaverhead County High School head football coach. At the time, McRae was trying to get his foot in the door with the football program and Troy was trying to get his feet wet at the quarterback position.

"His mom would make him lunch every day and we would just sit down, talk life, talk football, some days more than others," McRae recalled. "I would say it was a mutual interest in getting better because I think with Troy the one thing he has is a thirst for getting better."

Scott agreed with this assessment.

"He just wanted to be the best," Scott said. "He had a quiet confidence about him. He didn't let you know, but when he came down the field, he was good, and he wanted to be good."

His recall and intelligence helped enhance his athletic gifts.

"You never had to tell him anything twice," McRae said. "Everything that you had started, you could pick up right where the last meeting left off. That really let him explode in terms of knowledge of what he was seeing."

Fast forward a few years and Troy exhibited the same recall at Montana State.

"He's not a - what we call in the business - high-rep guy," Bobby Daly, Troy's linebackers coach at Montana State, said. "He's a guy who can take a rep, learn from a mistake and not repeat the same mistake, which is something to really hang your hat on."

It's something he brought with him to the NFL, too. Frank Bush, Troy's position coach now in Atlanta, has said the exact same thing on a few occasions since he began his work with Troy.

He's still the same guy in other areas, too. That quiet confidence of which his dad spoke of? The humility everyone you talk to about Troy brings up? It's all still there.

Join us as we take a look at the town of Dillon, Montana, from the long-form Atlanta Falcons feature exploring the origins of Troy Andersen's Montana roots.

Troy would rather talk about anyone or anything else but himself. He doesn't like interviews. He's not particularly fond of a camera in his face. When the draft came in 2022, he didn't rent out the community center in downtown Dillon even though some would have liked him to do so. Oh, Nicole said, he would have hated that. Instead, he had a couple friends over to the ranch to watch the draft on the family's television. When his name was called, it was all quiet smiles and bewildered looks. The family, and Troy, called the moment surreal.

When Troy ran out of the smoke-filled tunnel for the first time months later, now an NFL linebacker, his parents were in the audience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That moment, it was surreal, too.

"I think that's when it kind of hit us," Nicole said.

"It was just beyond awesome, right?" Scott added. "Whether you're a parent or anything it's cool for anybody … but this is our kid, you know?"

Their kid. Their quiet, humble, competitive kid who they say is the same guy he's always been despite his successes at every stop he's made over the course of his career. That includes being a valedictorian, a multi-sport state champion, an All-American, an MVP, a defensive player of the year, a second-round draft pick, amongst so much more.


"He hasn't forgotten where he came from," Scott said. "He's very, very humble. He's made some money and it hasn't changed him. I don't think he's bought a fishing pole." 

"For me, it's watching your kids grow up, and Troy has just blossomed," Nicole added, fighting back tears. "I'm just really proud of the man he's become." 

And as that man took the field on the first day of 2023 with almost a full NFL season under his belt, his sister couldn't help but feel the same way. 

"It's funny because he's my little brother and he'll always be that," Holly said with a fond smile only reserved for older sisters talking about their little brothers. "I still think he's a perfect person to be, and such a leader and role model for so many people, but it still blows my mind.

"He hasn't changed a bit… He's truly just a kid at heart." 

Just a kid, he says, from a small town in Montana. 

"Whether you're driving into Dillon, Bozeman, Billings or anything, you're going to find people that are rooting for me," Troy said with a bewildered look and a perplexed shrug of his shoulders, "which is kind of crazy because I'm just a kid from Dillon."

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