BRISTOL, Conn — The first selection in the NFL draft from a North Carolina college played his college football in Hickory.

Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger was selected in the second round by the New England Patriots. He is the 37th selection overall.

Dugger, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 217 pounds, finished with 30 tackles and intercepted four passes in 2019 for the Bears.

“My reaction is hard to explain,” he said on a Patriots conference call. “But I'd say probably the closest thing would definitely be Christmas, my first Christmas, I would say. I did know that they were going to have interest in me. I was talking to them a lot during this process, and so I did know they were interested in me.”

Dugger was the only player from a North Carolina program selected in the first two rounds. He played in the Senior Bowl and felt that showed NFL scouts that he could play with players from bigger programs.

“For me, it just gave me an opportunity to kind of solidify what I already knew, that I could play at this level, and just also the opportunity to play and learn from the coaching staff who was teaching me things and just learn things about myself while being able to study the short week of film,” Dugger said. “So, it kind of gave me an extra boost of confidence.”

Dugger is the earliest pick in Lenoir-Ryne history. The Bears play in the Division II South Atlantic League and finished 13-1 overall. Lenoir-Rhyne won 13 straight games before falling to No. 20 West Florida 43-38 in the Division II playoffs.

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