Former Green Beret and Texas long snapper Nate Boyer hopes to hook on in NFL
By Nate Davis on May 2, 2015
(UPDATE: Boyer was offered a contract by the Seattle Seahawks after the NFL draft concluded Saturday evening.)
Nate Boyer is a special teams ace, which seems highly appropriate once you’re familiar with his background.
A man who willingly tackles challenges, Boyer is currently trying to surmount a huge one — latching on with an NFL team as a long snapper.
At 5-11, 220 pounds and 34 years of age, he is the longest of long shots. But unfavorable odds typically don’t deter men who have served with the Green Berets, and Boyer’s beaten them before.
After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he decided at age 29 that he better attend college, fearing he never would otherwise. In the process of matriculating at the University of Texas, Boyer also walked onto the football team even though he’d never played a competitive down in his life.
“I didn’t want to regret never playing, and I’d never had the opportunity,” Boyer told USA TODAY Sports. “It was always my favorite sport to watch.”
With the help of the incumbent snapper, he taught himself the craft and refined his accuracy in subsequent deployments while with the National Guard. He eventually won the Longhorns’ starting job.
Now he hopes to do the same in the NFL — assuming he can continue adding weight.
“I’m trying,” laughed Boyer. “It’s hard. I played at 190 at Texas. I’ve already put on 25-30 pounds in the last three months. It’s tough. … Doing a lot of heavy lifting. It’s just eating constantly. Putting weight on this quick, it’s not easy, and it’s really hard to do it the right way. It’s been a struggle and a challenge.
“But I like challenges. It’s OK.”
A native of northern California, Boyer graduated from high school in 1999 and worked odd jobs to fund backpacking trips and globetrotting travels. He admits he lacked a sense of purpose.
“After high school, I had no interest in joining the military,” he said. “I wasn’t even really that patriotic.”
But an article in TIME magazine about genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan changed Boyer’s life. He bought a plane ticket to Africa in the autumn of 2004 and volunteered his service to the Sudanese by building refugee camps, assisting doctors and supporting local villagers however he could.
“I was figuring out a lot about myself, I guess. But it was kind of selfish, I wasn’t really doing anything for anybody else,” said Boyer. “Then I read that magazine article.
“So that’s kind of what bridged that gap. And when I was over there is where I gained my patriotism, because those people over there were so appreciative of Americans.”
A week after returning from Sudan, Boyer enlisted in the Army and scored highly enough on diagnostic tests to gain acceptance into the elite Green Berets, a Special Forces unit.
“If we don’t get involved in some of these major crises, people are like, ‘Where’s America? Where’s the U.S.?'” Boyer said of his decision to join the military.
“So I sort of gained an understanding for that and how much it meant to those people that I was there, so I wanted to continue that.”
His tours also gave him a great understanding of people in the Middle East, and he worries that Islam gets a negative reputation in America.
“I had great experiences overseas. Unfortunately, there were a few bad apples, but it doesn’t ruin the whole bunch. There’s a lot of people fighting in those countries that really care about advancing and improving their quality of life,” said Boyer.
“You develop brotherhoods and bonds with those people as well.”
Now he’s hoping to find a new band of brothers in the NFL. Boyer is well aware long snappers are rarely drafted and realizes most 34-year-old football players are former football players.
But he’s not worried about potentially meshing with athletes who are so much younger and lack his perspective.
“Hey, I was able to relate to college kids. I don’t think this will be any tougher,” he chuckled. “I’ve already trained with quite a few of them. And once I tell them a little bit about myself, I haven’t had one guy who’s been weird or disconnected in any way. They think it’s cool.
“I’m a chameleon, I’m able to fit in to these different situations and roll with it.”
He has already been in contact with a few teams and continues to work out in Los Angeles with FOXSports NFL insider Jay Glazer, who has been advocating on Boyer’s behalf.
“I’m hoping to at least get the opportunity to get out to a rookie minicamp and show ’em what I can do,” said Boyer.
Even if he doesn’t land on a roster, he’s well equipped for the next phase of his life. Boyer has already graduated from Texas with a degree in kinesiology and a masters in advertising. He’d like to eventually work on documentary films and is already involved in the non-profit sector.
He works closely with an organization called 22 Kill, which advocates for ex-servicemen and aims to reduce an alarming statistic: an average of 22 veterans per day commit suicide.
“Just not enough being done, that shouldn’t be happening at all,” said Boyer. “There’s a disconnect somewhere.”
He saw some colleagues killed during his Army missions, but Boyer says he hasn’t suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and instead embraces one of 22 Kill’s slogans, which encourages “post traumatic growth.”
“I’m definitely fortunate,” said Boyer. “It just makes me want to do more and accomplish more and pursue all those things that I’m able to do now that I’m home. And that comes with the realization that you don’t have these opportunities everywhere else.
“We’re so fortunate here. Happiness is doing what I love. I want to inspire everyone else to do the same thing, not just veterans.”2