Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Long snapper Nate Boyer determined the Longhorns’ theme for this season: for the man on my right and the man on my left.
The relevance to football is clear, but the phrase means more to Boyer than the rest of his teammates as it stems from his experience in the Army.
“What that means to us in the military is all the training you’re going through, everything that you’re doing when you’re in combat or in a situation, it’s about making sure the guy next to you is successful, keeping him safe, keeping him alive,” Boyer said. “When you’re deployed, something goes down, immediately all you think about is, ‘What can I do so I don’t let the guy next to me down?’”
Boyer joined the Army partly in response to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 at age 20. He joined the Green Berets Special Forces Unit after basic training and spent six years on active duty, earning a Bronze Star for his service. He remains active with the Texas National Guard and spends his summers on missions abroad.
He doesn’t talk very much about his military experience, but the work ethic he learned while serving translates to the football field and he was determined to make a difference on the Texas football team.
Boyer chose to come to Texas because of the competitive level of the football program. He wanted to be surrounded by the best, which is also why he decided to join the Special Forces.
“I wanted to be in the Army and serve my country but I wanted to do that with the best guys around me in the best possible situation,” Boyer said. “I’m going to learn more from guys that are the best at what they do. I put myself around them and I’ll be the best that I could possibly be.”
He walked on to the football team in 2010, even though he had never played organized football. His high school didn’t have a football team, but he played on the baseball and basketball teams.
Boyer chose long snapping because both of Texas’ long snappers were graduating and he felt that was the best way he could help the team. Some of the experiences he had while serving in the military helped him master the art of long snapping.
“It was just repetition,” Boyer said. “I remember when I was training, learning to shoot a pistol, it was just you dry fire it for hours before they even let you shoot a round. Then once you shoot a round, it’s one at a time, everything’s real slow and just perfect practice, perfect reps and it was the same thing for me in snapping.”
This work paid off for Boyer as he was awarded scholarships for both the 2012 and 2013 seasons and holds the starting spot. He also earned the Lorene L. Rogers Scholar-Athlete Award and graduated in May, but missed commencement because he was on active duty overseas. His work ethic inspires his teammates, who often refer to him as “Army” or “America.”
“I just look to Nate as a leader,” said senior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins. “If I never knew anything about Nate’s military background he would still be a strong leader, just because he’s a great guy. He just genuinely cares for people. He’s an older guy who knows the system. He came in as a walk on and he just busts his tail and works harder than a lot of guys on this team.”
Though Boyer is somewhat shy, he uses his military background to motivate the team. When his teammates are discouraged by grueling practices, he puts their struggles in perspective and pushes them to be better players and teammates.
“He says that what we do here is similar to what the military does except your worst day here is better than their best day there,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He says you have no clue and I don’t want to hear you crying. He also says that when you’re at war in football, you need to know what the guy on your right’s going to do and you need to know what the guy on your left is going to do and you need to trust him. At war they die if you make a poor decision. You die if they make a poor decision. We’re talking about a game here. We’re not talking about life and death.”
Others have taken notice of Boyer’s leadership skills. He was named the 2012-2013 Big 12 Sportsman of the Year and was the recipient of the 2012 Disney Spirit Award, given annually by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational figure.
In addition to his role as a leader and deep snapper, Boyer is entrusted with another important duty: leading the team out onto the field each game while carrying the American flag.
“I know that it’s possible that you can literally do anything in this life if you believe in yourself and work harder than everybody else around you,” Boyer said. “Definitely my time in the military helped with that belief.”