Nate Boyer was living in Los Angeles Sept. 11, 2001, when he got a call from his mom early in the morning. She told him to turn on the television.
What he saw on the screen changed his life forever. As the tragedy unfolded, he knew what he had to do. He made the decision to join the U. S. Army.
“I thought about it when I was in high school and I’d always respected those guys and thought it was just a real cool thing,” Boyer said.
“I didn’t do it initially coming out of high school and then 9/11 happened a couple years later and it just got me thinking that way again.”
He spent five years on active duty and was a part of the Army’s Green Berets Special Forces Unit, training in Georgia and North Carolina.
Boyer, now 31 years old and a snapper on the Texas football team, doesn’t talk about his time in the military.
He spent time in Iraq and other countries in that area and was awarded a bronze star for heroic achievement.
Boyer said this time of the year is always difficult for him because it brings back memories of the tragedy that occurred 11 years ago.
“9/11 is the reason a lot of the guys came in, and it’s the reason a lot of the guys stayed in,” Boyer said.
“It’s the reason we’re overseas at all right now and it’s the reason a lot of guys that we’re going to remember forever laid down their lives.”
He has now taken the work ethic and discipline he learned in the Army and applied it to football. Not only is he a walk-on for the Longhorns, but before he tried out for Texas he had never played organized football.
Last Saturday was a monumental day for Boyer. He had his first start for the Longhorns as the snapper for extra points and field goals.
Though Boyer could have chosen a university with a less competitive program, he decided on Texas for reasons similar to why he joined 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 decided to pick up snapping because he thought that would be the best way he could help the team. The Army’s constant repetition during training and its emphasis on excellence has helped him become a better football player and a better snapper.
“I started snapping last fall and it was just repetition,” Boyer said. “I remember when I was training and 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.”
Head coach Mack Brown said Boyer’s teammates have a lot of respect for him and look up to him. Brown admires his resolve and says his maturity has helped the team.
“I think it was probably 9/11 that made him want to go to the service,” Brown said. “I think watching the national championship game [in 2010] he said ‘I want to go there and play.’”
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said Boyer is like a big brother to the team.
“He’s the definition of a tough guy. He came in here and didn’t complain about anything,” Jeffcoat said. “Football is nothing compared to war and being out there in actual combat, using guns and all that. His situation was life or death.”
Boyer understands the importance of teamwork more than most. Brown said Boyer has told the team how important trust is with teammates, just like it is with fellow soldiers whose lives depend on each other.
Offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said even if he didn’t know about Boyer’s military background, he would still be a leader on the team.
“He just genuinely cares for people,” Hopkins said. “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.”
Boyer made it his goal to join the military and then the Texas football team. Though experience wasn’t on his side for either endeavor, his success taught him a valuable lesson.
“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.”