We sat down with linebacker Dane Fletcher to talk about some of his earliest and most unforgettable football memories. Football was Fletcher's backup plan to hockey until he earned a scholarship to play football at Montana State. He was named conference MVP as a senior before joining the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2010. Fletcher recently finished his fourth season with the team, seeing action on defense and special teams.
Q: Why do you play football?
DF: I play football because it's a physical sport. I grew up playing pretty much every physical sport. It was one of the last sports I truly enjoyed and so I kind of just took it and ran with it in high school and continued through college with it.
Q: What do you love about football?
DF: What I love about football is that truly everybody is equal. It doesn't matter whether you come from poverty, whether you're rich, whether you're this, that or the other, it's just you and the man across from you. It doesn't matter where that man is from. It doesn't matter how he grew up, whether he's born in the US, whether it's not. It's a truly mano-a-mano kind of sport. It's just me versus you and if I beat you then I win and I love that.
Q: When you were a kid, what position did you play?**
DF: When I was a kid, I grew up playing linebacker. That was kind of my position. Through college, they moved me to defensive end so I did it, but linebacker has always been my position at heart. I love being behind the ball, being able to read things but also being able to come up and crack the running backs, the offensive line, whatever it takes.
Q: So you like hitting.
DF: I love to hit. I feel like my parents would agree that I was born to put pads on one way or another. I grew up playing hockey, I grew up playing football and I grew up playing baseball. Even in baseball, I chose the one position where I could wear pads and have a shot at hitting somebody coming over home plate. One way or another, I love having pads, I love hitting people.
Q: What makes football different than the other sports?
DF: I felt like hockey was closely related. There's kind of the same attitude going into it. I just got stressed out with hockey in high school and I fell back on football as my second love. It was still a sport that I truly enjoyed to play. I just took it and ran with it. I told myself I'd never play a sport I didn't love. The minute I don't love football anymore is the time to hang it up.
Q: What player did you try to emulate as a kid?
DF: I'd probably say Bryan Cox. I don't know, he just had a crazy way about him. He would just go out and thump people. Between him and Zach Thomas, I really respected Zach Thomas's game. Those two would both, especially Zach, would study the game and really understand it. Yet, he would go and hit the biggest guys even though Zach was small. It was a good tossup between Bryan Cox and Zach Thomas, completely different players, but they'd both run downhill and just thump.
Q: What was your proudest moment in football?
DF: My proudest moment in football would probably be so far, just making it to the Super Bowl. Granted, we lost but just to make it there and be in the big show and run down on kickoff on that very first place and see all the lights. You always hear about kickoff on the very first play of the Super Bowl and how the lights just blind you. This is going on, that's going on through your head. To actually live that experience kind of just blew my mind. Once the game progressed, then it became real but the first kickoff was surreal and I really took it and harnessed it. I still look back and enjoy it.
Q: Do you like to entertain?
DF: The entertainment part of the game, I do to a certain extent but I'm really out there to do my job. Until my job is fulfilled, then I can entertain. That's how I feel. Once I make a good play, then I can go give the salute or whatnot for my friends and family back home. Until then, I don't feel like I've really earned it so I'm not going to come out and dance and this, that and the other and make a big commotion about something I haven't accomplished yet. Come game day, I don't feel like I've accomplished anything until I've actually earned it.
Q: Are you inspired playing in front of a crowd?
DF: It's great to play here in front of the New England fans. I grew up in Montana so we didn't have much of a crowd there and then I played at Montana State. For I-AA, it was a pretty decent crowd but you're talking decent maybe be 16,000 to 20,000 fans. Then you come here and it's 70,000 fans so it's just so different. I guess it's just where you're from. Back in Montana, in high school I thought a couple thousand was amazing to play in front of. In college, I thought 20,000 was crazy to play in front of. Now, I'm almost used to playing in front of 70,000 fans yet it's still entertaining every time I get out there and it's still a ball.