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How did an ex-Upper Merion football player end up allegedly ‘body slamming’ a reporter in Montana?

The Republican Montana congressional candidate charged with body slamming a reporter is no stranger to hard-hitting physical contact. He once played football for Upper Merion High School.

The alleged assault on the eve of a nationally-watched election for an open congressional seat came after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs asked candidate Greg Gianforte a question about the GOP's health care bill. It has drawn national attention.

In a statement, Gianforte claims he experienced "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist" before the two found themselves in a physical altercation that ended with the reporter's glasses being broken. But Jacobs says he never "touched or came close to Gianforte."

"The only thing in Gianforte's statement that is factually correct is my name and my place of employment," Jacobs said Thursday on ABC's Good Morning America.

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna was in the room with her crew during the incident and said no one witnessed any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte on the part of Jacobs.

"Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," Acuna wrote. "Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of 'I'm sick and tired of this!' "

In audio recording of the incident, posted by the Guardian, Gianforte can be heard brushing aside Jacob's question about the House Republicans' health care bill before sounds of the altercation flare up. At no point does Gianforte raise concerns about aggressive behavior on the part of Jacobs.

Gianforte grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, and was an offensive lineman on Upper Merion Area High School's football team before attending the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

So how did he end up in Montana?

In a 2016 interview with my colleague Joseph DiStefano, Gianforte said his junior-high science teacher Tim Frable brought him and his classmates to the sparsely-populated state to hike during the summer and it made an impression.

Once Gianforte and his partners sold the software company he co-founded to McAfee Associates in 1986, he moved to Bozeman, Mont., where he decided to raise his family. But he told DiStefano  the lessons he learned on the football field have stuck with him throughout his career.

"You win football games by first getting possession and then running 3- and 5-yard plays. Not by Hail Mary passes," Gianforte said. "Common sense, elbow grease, and keeping a positive attitude."