Texas sophomore Nate Boyer is not your typical walk-on.
Boyer, 31, spent five years in the Green Berets Special
Forces unit before joining the Longhorns in 2010. His service took him across
the globe and he earned a Bronze Star in Iraq.
"He's one of those guys you rally around because of the
things he's done," said linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Boyer was a walk-on defensive back two years ago and spent
2011 on the practice squad. This season, he's the snapper on field goals and
extra points and was awarded a scholarship in August.
"He earned it," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "I
see him in the weight room everyday with me. He's working hard."
Before joining the military at age 23, Boyer spent time
working on a fishing boat in Los Angeles after graduating high school.
That's when he got the phone call that changed his life.
It was September 11, 2001 and his mother delivered the tragic
news. Soon after, Boyer's mind was set on joining the armed forces.
"That's what got me," said Boyer, who previously
considered joining the military after high school. "It's the reason a lot
of guys came in, it's the reason a lot of guys stayed. It's the reason a lot of
guys, who we will remember forever, laid down their lives. It's always hard
this time of year to remember all that."
More than a decade later, Boyer is a respected voice on a
young Longhorns team. He's spoken to his teammates about leadership,
accountability and war. But he took away something else from his service that
translates to the football field.
"You learn so much about teamwork," Boyer said.
"Everything you do in the military is about the guy next to you, it's not
about you anymore and that's something I've tried to carry on and
Back in high school, it was nearly impossible for Boyer to
envision playing college football at its highest level. His school didn't have
a football program. Instead, he was a guard on the basketball team and a
pitcher and outfielder on the baseball diamond.
Last fall, Boyer learned to snap. Now, the Longhorns trust
him on special teams.
"I think it's the most unique story I've ever
seen," head coach Mack Brown said.
In order to make the team in 2010, Boyer had to survive a
strenuous workout with the coaching staff. His training with the Green Berets
"I knew I was in good shape," Boyer said. "I
definitely had good endurance but I hadn't played football before. It's about
what you can handle physically. It stinks. It's not fun at all. They push guys
to the limit and see who is going to quit. It's a lot like courses and training
in the military. The guys who are still handing at the end are the guys they
ask to join the team."
Boyer doesn’t talk about the missions he carried out with
the Green Berets or how he won his Bronze Star. But he's willing to discuss how
the military prepared him for college football.
"I'd say repetition," Boyer said. "For
instance when I picked up snapping last fall it was just repetition. I
remembered when I was training to use a pistol and you dry fire for hours
before they even let you shoot a round and then it's one at a time and real
slow with perfect practice and reps. It was the same thing for me with
snapping, just repetition."
Boyer's story is an inspiring one. He's the type of person
any football coach would want. So what drew him to the Longhorns?
"I chose Texas because I wanted to play for a great
program. It's the same reason I went in the Special Forces," Boyer said. "I
wanted to be in the Army, but I wanted to do that with the best guys around me.
I'm going to learn more from guys who are the best at what they do. If I put
myself around them, I'll be the best I can be."
By Austin Laymance
Special to the Star-Telegram