After being drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round in 2020, safety Kyle Dugger enjoyed a successful rookie season in the National Football League. The former Lenoir-Rhyne standout made 14 appearances (seven starts), recording 64 tackles (43 solo) including a tackle for loss.
Following appearances in all three of the Patriots’ preseason games — wins of 22-13, 35-0 and 22-20 over the Washington Football Team, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, respectively — the 25-year-old spoke with media members on Monday ahead of New England’s regular-season opener. The Patriots host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
“I’m hyped,” Dugger said in a press conference posted on Patriots.com. “... I’m ready to go, ready to get on the football field and get the season started.”
Dugger added that Dolphins quarterback Tagovailoa is “a good quarterback.”
“He reads defenses well and he makes pretty good decisions on every play, and he’s pretty consistent,” he continued. “So we’ve just got to make sure we do our job and execute the game plan on every play.”
Here’s a look at what’s going on with other professional athletes who have ties to the area:
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Ryan Succop, Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker
Following a stint on the Reserve/COVID-19 list due to a positive COVID test, Hickory native Succop — who has been vaccinated — was activated last Thursday. The 34-year-old had a stellar season for the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in 2020, making 28 of 31 (90.3%) field goal attempts and 52 of 57 (91.2%) extra point attempts during the regular season before going a perfect 9-for-9 on field goals and 12-for-13 (92.3%) on extra points in the playoffs.
Entering his 13th season as a pro, Succop has made 264 of 318 (83%) field goal attempts and 390 of 405 (96.3%) extra point tries in the regular season, also converting all 13 of his field goal attempts and 21 of 22 (95.5%) extra point attempts in eight career postseason games. He will kick for Tampa Bay when it hosts the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL’s opening contest on Thursday at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
Caleb Farley, Tennessee Titans cornerback
Farley was limited in the preseason as the Titans slowly worked him back to action following a short stay on the non-football injury list. The 22-year-old Maiden High graduate did appear in Tennessee’s 27-24 home loss to the Chicago Bears in its third and final preseason game, registering three tackles to tie for fourth on the team.
A rookie who was drafted by the Titans in the opening round of this past spring’s NFL draft, Farley will begin the regular season as a backup defensive back. Kristian Fulton and Jackrabbit Jenkins will serve as Tennessee’s starting cornerbacks during Sunday’s 1 p.m. home game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Landon Dickerson, Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman
The Eagles removed Dickerson from the non-football injury list at the beginning of last week and are expected to use the rookie in the regular-season opener, a road contest at the Atlanta Falcons, on Sunday at 1 p.m. The 22-year-old South Caldwell High graduate was unable to participate in training camp or any preseason games, but has the ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line.
Dickerson was chosen by Philadelphia in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. When he does play, he will be wearing his familiar No. 69, which he wore at both Florida State University and the University of Alabama, after switching from No. 51 following last week’s trade of fellow offensive lineman Matt Pryor to the Indianapolis Colts.
Tyler Shatley, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman
Speaking of offensive linemen, Shatley has been an important part of the Jaguars’ O-line since he signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Although he has primarily been used as a backup, the 30-year-old Valdese native has played in 94 games over his first seven years in the NFL.
Shatley is again poised to be a backup for the Jaguars, although his ability to play multiple positions on the line could prove crucial for a squad that will be looking to protect the No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jacksonville opens the regular season with a road game against the Houston Texans on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Chazz Surratt, Minnesota Vikings linebacker
Currently listed as the Vikings’ second-string weakside linebacker, Surratt appeared in all three of Minnesota’s preseason contests after being selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft. His best performance came in a 12-10 home loss to the Colts on Aug. 21, when the 24-year-old East Lincoln High alumnus registered game highs in total tackles (10) and solo tackles (five), including one tackle for loss.
A standout at the University of North Carolina, Surratt converted from quarterback to linebacker midway through his college career. His Vikings begin the regular season with a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Sage Surratt, Detroit Lions wide receiver
Sage Surratt played alongside his older brother at East Lincoln for part of his high school career before transferring to Lincolnton High. Despite going undrafted, the 23-year-old signed with the Lions and attempted to make the team.
Ultimately, Surratt was waived by Detroit during its final roster cuts. Nevertheless, the former star wideout at Wake Forest University was signed to the Lions’ practice squad a day later and will begin the regular season in that role, while Detroit will host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at 1 p.m.
B.J. Emmons, Las Vegas Raiders running back
Formerly a standout at Freedom High, Emmons was also an undrafted player who initially signed with the Seattle Seahawks before later joining the Raiders. Although the 24-year-old rookie failed to make the team, he did show potential while tallying 90 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in three preseason contests.
In the end, Emmons was released from Las Vegas’ practice squad on Monday. The Raiders host the Baltimore Ravens next Monday at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN.
Matt DiBenedetto, NASCAR Cup Series driver
After failing to qualify for playoff contention, DiBenedetto finished 23rd during the postseason-opening Cook Out Southern 500 this past Sunday at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway. The next race will be shown live on NBC Sports Network on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., when the cars are scheduled to zip around Virginia’s Richmond Raceway.
DiBenedetto is currently without a team for the 2022 Cup Series season, and there have been talks that he may have to drop down to the Xfinity Series. Nothing is set in stone either way at this point, but the 30-year old Hickory resident will not drive for Wood Brothers Racing next year.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks
After showing improvement in previous appearances, Bumgarner has lost his past two decisions and the Diamondbacks have dropped his last three starts overall. The 32-year-old Hickory native is now 7-9 with a 4.52 ERA, and he has nearly as many walks (12) as strikeouts (13) over his past three starts.
A three-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants, the 13th-year major leaguer signed with Arizona last season and proceeded to post a 1-4 record with a 6.48 ERA in nine starts during the COVID-shortened 60-game season. The Diamondbacks host the Texas Rangers today at 3:40 p.m. in the final game of a two-game interleague series.
Hunter Harvey, Baltimore Orioles pitcher
Harvey has yet to return from a rehab assignment after initially being placed on the injured list on July 2. The Orioles haven’t decided whether he will be promoted back to the big leagues this season, as he remains at Triple-A Norfolk (Virginia).
Harvey has made 26 relief appearances for the Orioles since making his major league debut in 2019. The 26-year-old has a career ERA of 3.42 and 23 strikeouts against nine walks in 23 2/3 innings.
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Former Hickory High standout Zach Jarrett entered Tuesday with a .227 batting average in 76 games for Norfolk, Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate. The 26-year-old outfielder has 56 hits including eight home runs, 10 doubles and two triples, and he also has 27 RBIs, 36 runs scored and 11 stolen bases in 16 attempts.
Hayden Deal, who attended Bandys High, is still pitching at Double-A Mississippi for the Atlanta Braves. In 26 games (16 starts) at Mississippi, the 26-year-old has a 3-2 record, a 3.78 ERA and 68 strikeouts against 30 walks in 83 1/3 innings.
Also with Mississippi is Justin Dean, a former Lenoir-Rhyne standout who is currently 24 years old. In 90 games at the Double-A level, the center fielder is batting .239 with 79 hits including seven homers, 12 doubles and four triples, and he also has 33 RBIs, 54 runs scored and 28 stolen bases in 34 tries.
Former Catawba Valley Community College pitcher Julian Smith was recently promoted by the Los Angeles Dodgers from the Low-A West level with the Rancho Cucamonga (California) Quakes to the High-A Great Lakes (Michigan) Loons. In five appearances out of the Loons’ bullpen, the 24-year-old has a 3.38 ERA to go with six strikeouts and three walks in eight innings.
Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record.