On Sundays in autumn when we northern Rockies denizens return to our rivers, re-wetting lines of connection in the cooling currents after months of usurpation by outsiders, Mike Person dreams of his homeland, too, but from afar. Such idylls help him still the nerves as he puts on his armor, preparing for battle in the truest American form of gladiator. On his afternoons, Person\u2019s mind becomes intensely focused on repelling an invasion, this one a war over turf. Hunched down in a three-point stance, squaring off against foes who want to pummel the colleagues behind him\u2014 and for whom he is paid handsomely to protect\u2014Person ponders holes, though not the mellifluous, placid kinds that hold trout. As a starting offensive guard for the San Francisco 49ers, Person\u2019s job is opening up running lanes for ball carriers or buying quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo time to stand poised in the pocket. He knows success for the team comes down to something seemingly simple yet actually complicated and hard to executive\u2014his ability to block. \u201cFrom a standpoint of physics, we are the only guys on the field taking a hit or giving a hit 70 times a game,\u201d Person says. \u201cThose add up over the course of a season. Mondays I\u2019m sore; Tuesdays really sore, and then, when Wednesdays roll around, it\u2019s time to stop worrying about what hurts because we\u2019ve got to get ready for Sunday.\u201d Bruised and bloodied week in and out, sacrificing his 300-pound frame to crunching hits, he\u2019ll soak his weary muscles in ice baths, get deep tissue massages and take Ibuprofen to help make the pain go away before he does it all over again for months until the season ends. What does his profession have to do with flyfishing, his expanding respect for wild places and doing right by his family? As it turns out, everything. Person\u2019s career in the trenches reminds him of contrasts\u2014of Sundays' past, present and future. Where he escapes during the offseason, home water means peace but not quiet. Compared to the deafening roar of 70,000 fans, so loud it drowns out the quarterback\u2019s cadence, there is solace in the hum of a river like the Yellowstone, Madison or Gallatin, he says. Wading into a bend casting, stripping line, mending, tying on a fake gnat with no one else around, no cheers or jeers, is an activity where Person can go to hear himself think. And listen. He understands why clean water matters. Flyfishing has trained him to be more instinctive, to read patterns on water, to move with ease and grace, rather than like a bowling ball knocking down pins. No brawn or quarter ton squatting weights required to lay down a midge. Typically, casters need not worry about blown out ACLs, concussions, broken fingers and torn rotator cuffs. And yet a parallel can be drawn between how a ball moves downfield and a trout navigates its linear sanctum. Many people have stereotypes when it comes to pegging football linemen, equating them almost to stolid members of a bison herd. Person, the youngest of four siblings, is soft-spoken, contemplative and big-hearted, residing more on the laconic side of the spectrum than evincing any pretentious temptation to name drop who his employer is. That\u2019s not how he was taught to impress people in Montana. \u201cThere is a lot of pride when it comes to being from there and it is present from Libby all the way down to Wibaux . Every kid who grows up there feels it in some way but you\u2019re not always aware of it until you\u2019re gone,\u201d he says. \u201cBeing from Montana, that\u2019s more important than what you do.\u201d Person never needed anyone to teach him how to meditate before games; it\u2019s second nature, rooted in afternoons, sometimes following Sunday morning Catholic Mass when he and his buddies repaired to the river, using nightcrawlers bought at the local gas station to hook catfish and sauger. By \u201cthe river,\u201d he means the Yellowstone. Person grew up in remote Glendive only a few blocks from the Yellowstone\u2019s banks lined with cottonwood trunks as big around as Greek columns. He stood out in football and earned all-state honors on the o-line. Bobcat coaches recognized him as a kid with raw talent that could be molded for the next level. When he first reported to campus, he was 6\u20194\u201d \u201cand extremely skinny\u201d at 250 pounds, he says. It wasn\u2019t until Person decided to play at Montana State, he says, that he started to think about angling as a high art form. He gained a newfound appreciation for Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding ecosystem. He counts it as a favorite destination and it's where his family is constantly reminded why it's important to care about the environment. Part of the perk of being a Bobcat is having access to some of the best-known trout streams in the world. Flyfishing is something many players learn and it\u2019s those memories that they take with them. It\u2019s uncanny how many pro athletes take up fishing to unwind. When Person talks about landing big browns and rainbows in the 49ers locker room, teammates pay attention; Montana, to some, sounds almost like a mythological place. At age 31, Mike Person, wearing number 68, is indeed in the prime of confidence though he knows football won\u2019t last forever. As a history and education major, he\u2019s thought of teaching and coaching, like his dad. He also said he wouldn\u2019t mind penning a flyfishing column for Mountain Journal. The family still has a cabin north of Butte. With the rivers around Bozeman getting crowded, he enjoys wandering the Boulder River. Planting a fly perfectly on the seam of a riffle, he says, is as amazing a feat to him as watching a perfectly-thrown spiral 60 yards into the outstretched hands of a receiver. \u201cThere\u2019s beauty in both,\u201d he says. He can relate to the analogy offered by noted Bozeman writer Paul Schullery who once said, \u201cCalling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job.\u201d He also observed, \u201cIf you aren\u2019t a fisher, you\u2019ll see many things, but the river, except where it is ridden by a waterfall or waded by a moose, will rarely enter your thoughts, much less stimulate your spirit. It\u2019s different if you fish. The surface of the water tells a story.\u201d Person does fish, and it stimulates his spirit and it reminds him there\u2019s always an abiding place where he can return, though for now fall fishing on Sundays in Montana will have to wait for a while. Still, he says the rivers have already given him stories to tell. One of them is this: like safeguarding his quarterback, clean water needs protection too.