Special Forces Soldier Plays Football in Texas
February 25, 2011
Courtesy of Texas National Guard
As a Special Forces communications expert, Nate Boyer didn’t play a lot of football, but after making up his mind to come to Austin and try out as a “walk-on” player at the University of Texas, college, football—and the Texas Army National Guard—seem to be on his mind a lot these days.
Born in Tennessee, Boyer grew up in the San Francisco Bay area of California and worked on a fishing boat after high school.
After 9/11, he decided to join the Army, looking toward Special Forces. In the six years he spent on Active Duty, Boyer served with 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa and 10th Group at Fort Carson, CO.
After Active Duty, Boyer looked toward college. “Honestly, I didn’t want to get out,” he said, “as much as go back to school.”
All the signs pointed south, so he packed up his bags and headed out, landing in the capital of the Lone Star State. The decision seemed natural to Boyer. “I’m using my GI Bill, and Texas is a great state for that, Austin’s a great city and [The University of Texas] is a great school,” he said. Getting a college education wasn’t all that was on his mind, though.
“I was a big dreamer as a kid,” said Boyer, “but I realized it’s not a reality for a lot of people.” Although he dreamed of playing sports as a kid, football seemed to move out of reach. His high school didn’t have a football team.
That didn’t stop Boyer. He knew he would try out for the Longhorn football team, no matter what, so he got in playing shape and learned as much as he could about the game. “This was a challenge I thought could make it happen,” he said.
“After Special Forces, you know you can do a lot more than you could in the past. I was going to school either way, so I didn’t see a reason not to try.”
Boyer’s success as a walk-on player didn’t come as much of a surprise for Blake Gideon, a senior player and now Boyer’s mentor on the football field. “When he first walked on, everyone kind of knew … he carries that air with him, to where he doesn’t have to brag. Once they find out what he’s like and how he works, people are compelled to give him their respect,” said Gideon.
Even with the new challenge of college and football, serving his country was still important to Boyer. When the Texas Army National Guard approached him, he was very interested. “The military is something I’m still very much into,” he said, “but it’s hard to go to school on Active Duty.” The Special Forces recruiters told Boyer they would do their best to work with his schedule, and he decided to put the uniform back on as a Citizen-Soldier for the Texas Army National Guard. Boyer enlisted into the Texas National Guard as a staff sergeant on Feb. 24 in Austin, during the first regular football practice of the spring season.
Gideon says the other players support Boyer. If he is called up, “We’re going to miss his company,” said Gideon, “since he’s the first guy to crack a joke.” At the same time, the team knows Boyer is aware of responsibilities he’s taking on. “I don’t think he’d sign up for this in hopes that he’d sit at home,” said Gideon. “I think he’d want to go, to fulfill his responsibility. We expect him to go and expect him to return.”
For Boyer, balancing the needs of the military with the demands of school is just one more challenge, one he looks forward to meeting. “It sounds pretty cliché, but definitely, no matter what it is, you can do it. So much of what you can get in this life is how hard you work. You can really do anything if you work hard, and really want it, and don’t take no for an answer.”