At age 34, former Green Beret pursues unlikely dream of playing in NFL

By Jordan Heck on 1/19/2015

Nate Boyer’s resume lists Green Beret, Texas Longhorns football scholarship and Bronze Star recipient, but now he’s hoping to add NFL player.

Boyer’s story is a unique one. The 34-year-old is currently preparing to wow NFL scouts at the Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. on Saturday. If he does impress scouts, it would be the least interesting thing in his life so far.

Nate Boyer (Getty Images)

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports covered Boyer’s journey extensively in a recent feature. He wrote about the time Boyer’s life almost ended due to a close call with a sniper.

“On his return from fixing the radio in the back of the vehicle Boyer felt a buzz whiz by his ear, followed immediately by the unmistakable crack of a bullet slamming into the side of an armored vehicle, just inches from his head.”

In 2004, Boyer read a Time magazine article featuring the genocide in Darfur. He decided to offer his services. After his experience, he came out a new man. He also came out with the feeling he wanted to enlist in the Army — which he did. During his service time Boyer earned the Bronze Star, the military’s fourth-highest honor.

As his time with the Army was winding down in 2008, Boyer started thinking about school. Not only would he join a college, but he’d join a college football team despite zero experience in the sport. And not only did he decide to join a college football team, he decided to join one of the best — Texas.

“If I am going to walk on somewhere I wanted it to be a challenge, a great program,” he said to Yahoo!

He succeeded. Boyer earned a walk-on spot on the roster.

“It’s probably the most unique story in my 42 years of coaching,” then-Texas coach Mack Brown told Yahoo!

Earning a walk-on spot was just the beginning. He had to find a position. Eventually, he saw an opportunity.

“I walked on as a safety, but at a place like Texas, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to get on the field anytime soon,” Boyer said to ArmyTimes. “My freshman year, both the starting and the backup long snappers were seniors, and I saw an opening there.”

He had never played center before, let alone long snapper. But that didn’t deter Boyer. He watched YouTube videos to learn the techniques involved with the position. He would soon become the team’s starting long snapper. He also earned a scholarship at Texas. But he still felt compelled to perform his civic duty.

“I’d won the starting job, I was put on scholarship, and I had to go into Coach Brown’s office and tell him I was going to be deploying in late April and I wouldn’t be back until August,” Boyer said to ArmyTimes. “Camp starts in early August. But he fully supported it. … He was just like, ‘Do what you’ve got to do, we appreciate your service … I know you’re going to stay in shape over there, just be sure you bring a football.'”

Boyer’s football career with Texas ended on Dec. 29 with the team’s 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. His time with football appeared to be over. But a few calls later and Boyer received an invite to the Medal of Honor Bowl.

“Boyer, to be honest with you, I called out to Texas and I talked with an old coach who is a good friend of mine, Kenny Rucker,” former VMI football coach Cal McCombs told him. “And Kenny said, ‘You need a long snapper?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I need a long snapper.’ And Kenny said, ‘I got the perfect guy for you.'”

McCombs is in charge of player personnel duties for the Medal of Honor Bowl. Boyer’s appearance in the bowl game will be his best chance to impress NFL scouts.

The 5-10, 200-pounder is undersized for his position, but that didn’t stop him from earning a starting job with the Longhorns. It’s unlikely he gets a call from an NFL team, but his entire life has been unlikely.

“How does a guy who never played in high school get a starting position at the University of Texas?” Brown said to Yahoo! “You can’t do that. And how could a guy leave each summer and go to Afghanistan and come back and play? You can’t do that either.”

If the football thing doesn’t work out, Boyer hopes to get into Hollywood. He has an internship set up with director and producer Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Friday Night Lights”).