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How Kyle Dugger, small-school star turned Patriots rookie, became the ‘Barry Bonds’ of D-II punt returners

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains sits Hickory, North Carolina.

Famed for the detail crafted in their one-of-a-kind furniture, Hickory is home to about 40,000, mostly blue-collar workers, and the Division II Lenoir-Rhyne Bears.

For the past three seasons, the city has packed Moretz Stadium on Saturday afternoons, eager to see a different kind of craftsmanship — Patriots second-round pick Kyle Dugger’s.

“People paid money to come watch that kid play,” said Drew Cronic, who coached the Bears from 2017-2019. “The first thing that comes to my mind: Watch that joker return punts.