Former Green Beret, Seahawks rookie long-snapper Nate Boyer seeks to honors fallen comrades with his play

By Stephen Cohen on May 8, 2015


Nate Boyer knows his NFL moment in the sun might not last long, so he’s going to soak up every second he can.

The 34-year-old former Green Beret took the field for the first time in a Seattle Seahawks jersey on Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. The self-described dreamer said that putting on a Seahawks jersey for the first time was “an amazing feeling,” and that he had a hard time describing his realization that he was an NFL player.

“We came yesterday to check in and saw the water (Lake Washington) right here — it’s unbelievable,” Boyer told reporters after practice on Friday. “To be able to say I am officially an NFL player — for as long as it lasts — is amazing. It is hard to describe.”

After tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer has long known that football — a game in which players routinely label themselves “warriors” — bears little resemblance to the real article. But the 5-foot-10, 216-pound long snapper said he still relished the camaraderie of a team, which he enjoyed at the University of Texas after walking on as a 29-year-old in 2009.

“Those brotherhoods you build in the locker room or on the battlefield are the same type of things,” Boyer said. “The concept I love about football is that you’re fighting for the man on your left and right, and that is exactly what it’s all about in combat. When you get in a firefight, you’re no longer worried about yourself, but you’re taking care of your brother, and a successful football team has the same mindset — you don’t want to let the team down, you’re selfless and you’re playing for each other, not for yourselves.”

Clint Gresham has been the Seahawks’ long snapper since Pete Carroll took over in Seattle in 2010, but given Carroll’s “always compete” mantra, Gresham may want to watch his back. To hear Boyer tell it, however, his rivalry with the NFL veteran six years his junior is already off to a friendly start.

“Clint Gresham reached out to me soon after I got that phone call,” Boyer said. “He was one of the first people to reach out to me, so it’s not going to be an ill-willed thing. It’s going to be two guys competing, having fun and getting after it. That is what is best for the organization in the end, and that’s what matters. It is such a good opportunity and I am so fortunate to be here. I am soaking up every minute of it, and I am going to give everything I can, and may the chips fall where they may.”

Carroll said the team was happy to have Boyer on the team, and not simply as a novelty.

“He’s an amazing man,” Carroll said. “We’re thrilled to have him. He snaps the ball pretty sweet, too. … He’s going to be in a big competition with Gresh. We’ll see how that goes.”

Boyer dispelled any notion that he earned a place as a leader among rookies more than a decade younger than him based solely on his service, and he was hesitant to draw more attention to the details of his years with Special Forces. But he said he wanted to continue his NFL dream as long as possible, in part because of comrades who “sacrificed more” than he did.

“There are a lot of guys who won’t have this opportunity, not just in football, but in a lot of things,” Boyer said. “That’s why I am here — that’s one of the main reasons why I am here — is to do it in honor of those guys who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the guys who aren’t here and the guys who gave everything so we can play football.”