From an obscure walk-on football player to a feature subject on ESPN and CNN, Nate Boyer has become a shining example to all who have big dreams.
Dec. 12, 2012
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
Every holiday season, in his first sermon of the New Year, the legendary preacher Gerald Mann used to deliver a message entitled "You CAN begin again."
Until recently, Gerald Mann (whose career was short-circuited by Parkinson's Disease) never met Nate Boyer, but the Special-Forces-soldier-turned-Longhorn-football player certainly got the message. In fact, Nate is a sermon all by himself.
From an obscure walk-on football player who once was one of a hundred or so non-scholarship athletes at The University of Texas to a feature subject on ESPN and CNN, Nate Boyer has become a shining example to all those out there who would like to go for their dreams. There is no better "feel good" story in America today.
On back-to-back days on national television, Nate was in Orlando Thursday for the ESPN College Football Awards show where he was named the most inspirational figure in college football and received the Disney Spirit Award. Then at the Longhorn Honors Banquet televised live over the Longhorn Network, he was honored by the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl with their inaugural Armed Forces Merit Award as presented by the Football Writers Association of America.
All of this for a 31-year-old college student who served several tours of duty in the Middle East as an elite Special Forces Green Beret, and who never played high school football.
Folks, we can't make this stuff up.
By now, most of you know the story of how a young man who graduated from Valley Christian High School in Dublin, California, made his way as the starting deep snapper for placement kicks at The University of Texas at Austin.
But what Nate Boyer represents to current U.S. Veterans returning to civilian life extends way beyond the distance of the seven yards he flicks a football to his holder Cade McCrary on Texas' placement kicks. Boyer's high-profile status in a way gives hope to thousands of men and women who are ending their tours of duty seeking a direction for the rest of their lives.
Nate's strong commitment as a patriot to the military is stirring in its power, but his ability to seek new and different horizons is a lighted pathway to opportunities beyond their service to America. In a time when the media has focused on the plight of the returning soldier, Boyer steps up with a plan that has worked for him, and may work for others. While Nate and Ahmard Hall - the Longhorns' Marine vet who played at Texas and went on to serve as a captain for the Tennessee Titans - are two examples of those who chose to use their G.I. Bill education fund to get a college degree, there could be many more who follow in their footsteps.
It is possible to envision new opportunities in colleges across the country for hundreds of young men and women who were athletes in high school and chose, for a variety of reasons, to enter the Armed Forces immediately after graduation. They offer maturity, both physically and mentally, and they provide opportunities for students to afford college and enter athletics programs as "walk-ons."
Nate is the first to acknowledge that he entered the work force (or college program) in good physical shape. He knows many of his fellow Veterans suffered wounds - seen and unseen - that continue to affect their lives. He isn't saying "you must do what I did," instead he is saying, "this is what I did," and it has worked for him. He has used the tenacity that helped him become a Green Beret to carve a life that continues to evolve for him. A recipient of the Bronze Star - America's fourth highest combat commendation - he hopes one day to return to his comrades in battle, once again standing in harm's way to protect our freedom.
At 31, he is the first to latch on to the right to be "young at heart." He's also the first to say that he's made a bunch of mistakes along his journey. Clearly, as among the best of America's best, he's had to limit those considerably when lives are on the line.
He is America's most inspirational college football player (as the Disney Spirit Award represents), and he is a deserved first winner of the Bell Helicopter Bowl and the FWAA's Armed Forces Merit Award because he has embraced life proudly. He once said he entered the Green Berets and later the Special Forces because he wanted to earn the right to be an American. He had seen first-hand the admiration others around the world held for his country, and he wanted to carry that message.
The Longhorn football team has become a huge part of his life because the family atmosphere has brought him back to his roots as a member of a greater whole. He shares an amazing duality - he is a member of the team's leadership committee, and he has been appointed by University of Texas President Bill Powers to the standing Veterans Committee for Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Any conversation, at any level, concerning Nate Boyer begins and ends with the word "respect."
But it is impossible to tell his story without paying homage to the word "pride." His friends are proud that he is in their lives. For Nate, however, his pride comes in a private moment that is also very public. At the beginning of each Longhorn game, he is one of the players who carries the American flag onto the field in front of the team. In that space, he says he thinks of those men and women who are still serving for all of us. He prays for their safety, and he anticipates with wonder the time when he might rejoin them in battle.
Because, you see, in the end, Staff Sgt. Nate Boyer is a warrior. He serves mankind. As a soldier in the army of The United States of America.