In 2004, after reading a TIME magazine article about Darfur, Nate Boyer felt compelled to go to Africa and help those displaced from years of civil war. He volunteered to do relief work at Refugee Camps in the Darfur region of the Sudan/Chad border. “I realized that there was something not right in the world, and I finally realized how fortunate we are to have everything that we have.” Boyer said. “They were so blown away that an American would come and volunteer to help them out, and I came back with this new-found patriotism and I went straight to the recruiter and told them I wanted to be in the Special Forces.” In March 2005, he joined the U.S. Army and by December 2006 he had already earned the right to be a prestigious Green Beret.
Boyer had never played football, in high school or even as a kid. But he soon found the beauty of the game when he was serving overseas. Boyer would come back to the home base after a mission in Iraq at 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. and then watch college football and NFL. It was one of his few joys while dodging gunfire and searching for terrorists in the war-torn country.
pic.twitter.com/drnq3KEMy5 Been running this same exact flag out of the tunnel for every game since I've been a Longhorn. Love this country too
— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) October 15, 2014
Nate got back from deployment and one of the first things he did was to apply at the University of Texas. He only wanted to play football for the Longhorns because of the rich history and head coach William Mack Brown was such an influence on military personnel from his USO tours. Nate received a scholarship from the GI Bill and he walked onto Texas as a 29-year-old safety. He was on the scout team in his first year, and he was finally put in an actual game later in the season during a blowout. Brown put Boyer in on the kickoff team where he was double-teamed, but one of them was put on their back.
Longhorn Family, Thanks for letting me be part of your journey. Now it's time to go change the world. Hook 'Em 4ever! pic.twitter.com/SWcIKsR8tN
— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) January 19, 2015
Boyer desperately wanted to play more often, and saw that there was opening at long snapper the next season with the graduation of the starter and backup. So he just started watching YouTube videos and vigorously practicing to be a long snapper despite never doing it in his life. He did this all during his offseason, not at home on his free time, but as a member of the National Guard in Greece. His hard work and dedication paid off, he played the position in 38 consecutive games for the Longhorns and became a talented long snapper, recording more than 500 snaps at Texas without making a bad snap.
Despite playing on the Texas Longhorns, Boyer still had devotion to the armed services. In two deployments from April 2013 until August 2014, Boyer was sent to Afghanistan on various Special Forces missions. During this time in Afghanistan, Boyer had two near-death experiences. In Tajab, near the Afghan-Pakistan border, his unit was searching for Taliban when a brutal firefight erupted. This deadly encounter saw the captain of the Afghan forces, who was standing next to Boyer, was shot in the throat and died. Later in that gun battle, a bullet came three inches from Boyer’s face. He didn’t fear for himself and actually worried for his peers, “I’m not married, and I don’t have any children,” he said. “Better to have me there.”
Boyer is asked by Peter King, “How many people did you kill?” The veteran responds, “I am not going to answer that. I honestly don’t know. I can tell you I am no Chris Kyle. But you don’t really know because—well, you are in these battles, and you come back, and, last year, we had one firefight with 30 enemy KIA [killed in action], and you never know for sure who got who.”
Still not impressed? He has also held hands with Matthew McMonaughey.
— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) October 20, 2014
Nate has even partied with David Wooderson.
That guy is ruggedly handsome and has some classic good looks… I wonder if McConaughey felt inadequate next to him? pic.twitter.com/Iqv1nAQAXA
— Nate Boyer (@NateBoyer37) April 25, 2014
Last month, Boyer told Rich Eisen what it would mean to him to make the NFL:
“It’s really hard to put into words. It would be indescribable, not just for me, but for the guys who I fought with and the guys that made the ultimate sacrifice. The guys that are fighting today whether they’re overseas or back home. The suicide rate among veterans is uncanny, 22 a day are killed by suicide. That’s something that I’m very passionate about in fixing. There’s an organization that I’m working with called #22Kill, that’s all about empowering veterans. I want to be able to show those guys that, ‘Look no matter where you came from or what happened to you, like you can literally do anything, if you just work harder than anyone else around you. You already have sacrificed, you know how to do this.’ Just to have a team or the league itself open the doors and say, ‘Look, besides all this, on paper you may not have what we’re looking for in an NFL prospect, but you have those intangibles and we’ll at least give you a shot.'”
Well on Saturday, Boyer got his chance and earned his spot on an NFL roster when the Seattle Seahawks offered the 34-year-old a contract. “Yeah, I’ve done things that are more difficult,” Boyer told NFL Network’s NFL Total Access on Saturday. “You can’t really compare the two in a lot of ways, but this is a huge challenge in itself. This is the best athletes in the world. Just to get an opportunity and be able to compete… And I’m playing for a great team in a great city. I couldn’t be anymore thrilled. Just for the chance that’s all you can ask for.”
“Through a good friend of mine I’ve become very aware of who this guy is at his core, and everything that he represents, and what he’s done every year at Texas,” Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider said. “Then, three tours and come out of high school. He’s just a phenomenal person, and he’s a competitor, and he’s tough and he represents a lot of really, really cool things that quite frankly I think would be really good for a lot of us to be around.”
“We cherish competitors, we cherish tough guys, we cherish guys that can overcome odds, and he’s done all of that,” Pete Carroll noted that Boyer has more than a chance. “And, he’s done a good job, too. He’s even snapped a football. We’ll see what happens. Gresh [Clint Gresham] better get ready.”
Nate will compete against veteran Clint Gresham for a roster spot. At 5-11, 225 pounds he’s considered undersized for an NFL long snapper, however he does have NFL-worthy skills. Indianapolis Colts long snapper Matt Overton told Peter King, “His velocity is definitely there, and his accuracy is definitely there. This was my chance to see if this was just a good story or if he has a legitimate shot to make it. And there is no question in my mind he can do it. None. He can legit long-snap at the NFL level.”
“Regret is the only thing that I’m afraid of.” – Nate Boyer.