From Green Berets to burnt orange, color Boyer a Horns hero
By Kirk Bohls on September 11, 2012
Nate Boyer’s telephone rang in Los Angeles, shattering the pre-dawn silence of Sept. 11, 2001, and he immediately knew something was horribly wrong.
His mother breathlessly told her 20-year-old son to turn on the television. He did, and his life changed forever.
Boyer didn’t immediately join the military after Sept. 11, but it did set him on an incredible journey that has taken him to some of the most dangerous spots in the world, earned him one of the nation’s highest honors for performance in combat and eventually brought him to the University of Texas — and a place on the football team as the Longhorns’ deep snapper.
Ricardo B. Brazziell
He has always been aware there’s a larger world out there. He’s seen an awful lot of it from two tours in the Middle East.
It wasn’t until 2004 that he enlisted in the Army, joined the Green Berets and served with distinction. In his first week in Iraq, he witnessed a fellow soldier’s death from a bomb blast.
Boyer’s a hero, albeit a reluctant one among the thousands of largely faceless soldiers to whom our country is indebted. The short, compact young man with focused hazel eyes, a buzz haircut and jaw stubble expects no thanks for his sacrifice. You’ll get no stories about his dramatic missions, or of the near escapes or any other details of his five years in the military.
Boyer was the youngest soldier ever to have been invited to join Delta Force, an elite counterterrorism and special missions unit. But he keeps those memories locked away. Boyer’s mother has his Bronze Star. None of his teammates has ever seen it.
“He really won’t talk about it,” safety Adrian Phillips said.
Name, rank and serial number is about all you’ll get from the now 31-year-old former staff sergeant.
Was he scared in Iraq?
“Of course,” Boyer said. “Every day. But you control the fear and move on.”
Mack Brown doesn’t have to look anywhere else to inspire his team than Boyer, who knows all too well about going out on three-day missions with 115 degrees of heat beating you down, carrying all your food in your 45 pounds of gear and sleeping in the sand with one eye open.
“I tell the players, ‘Your worst day here is better than their best day,'” Brown said.
Two years ago, Boyer walked on to a spot on the Texas roster even though his high school, Valley Christian in Dublin, Calif., didn’t even field a football team. Boyer was a guard in basketball and pitched for the baseball team, and he had the most rudimentary football skills when he tried out for the team in the spring of 2010.
To find a role, he took up deep snapping without ever having tried it. But as he put it, he’d never fired a pistol before the military either and can remember dry-firing with blank rounds for four hours at a time. He learned.
Boyer’s been good enough that he was put on scholarship in August and won the short-snap job last week, holding for seven field goals and extra points in Texas’ win over New Mexico. He can save the GI Bill for graduate school.
“I’m still not that good,” he said, smiling.
No matter. Boyer’s value, and the message he can send, transcends the football field.
“We all love to make analogies with combat and football, but we do it and it’s not real,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. We talk about accountability, trust. When Nate talks about it, it determines whether you and the guy next to you lives or dies. Our armed forces have to go undefeated every year. They can’t go 11-1.”
Contact Kirk Bohls at firstname.lastname@example.org or 445-3772; Twitter: @kbohls
14-TEXAS AT MISSISSIPPI
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Oxford, Miss.
Radio: KVET (1300 AM, 98.1 FM)
Records: Both teams are 2-0
The series: Texas leads 5-1