Created to honor an individual and/or group that has brought distinction and recognition to both their service in the armed forces and the sport of football, Nate Boyer of the University of Texas at Austin has been named the first recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.
Boyer, a long snapper for the Texas Longhorns, and wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez of Clemson University were the semi-finalists for the Armed Forces Merit Award as a seven-person selection committee made up of five members of the FWAA and two officials from the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl considered 15 nominations for the inaugural award.
With the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl being “More Than A Game”, the Armed Forces Merit Award is one of two “accolades” presented by the organizers of the postseason contest that is owned and operated by ESPN. Since 2006, the Executive Committee of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl has presented the Great American Patriot Award presented by Armed Forces Insurance.
Boyer will be presented the Armed Forces Merit Award at the University of Texas Football Banquet on December 7 in Austin. His accomplishments will also be recognized during bowl week for the 10th annual game to be played December 29 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in a game matching schools from Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference.
“On this very special day, Veterans’ Day 2012, we are pleased to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor Nate Boyer from the University of Texas as the first recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award,” said Brant Ringler, executive director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces. “We had two individuals as our semi-finalists that brought recognition to the sport of college football after serving with honor in the armed forces for our country. It was a difficult choice as both men were very deserving of the honor.
Steve Richardson, executive director of the FWAA, echoed Ringler’s sentiments along with adding that his association is “pleased to team with Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl to recognize Nate Boyer’s achievement as a veteran that used his armed forces experiences to benefit his teammates and coaches at the University of Texas. The FWAA also salutes finalists Daniel Rodriguez for his outstanding contribution at Clemson after a decorated career in the armed forces.”
A Green Beret Staff Sergeant and a Bronze Star recipient after several tours of duty in the Middle East as a member of an elite Special Forces unit, Boyer decided to come to The University of Texas in 2010 where he brought with him the leadership skills which had made him one of the bright rising stars in the Special Forces. Boyer has continued his mission of education and training as an employee of Mission Essential Personnel, which is a leadership training group composed of former Navy SEAL and Special Forces members.
After learning last spring that all the Longhorn deep snappers were graduating, Boyer grabbed a football and began learning about the special team’s position. After practicing in his spare time while on deployment this past summer, Boyer returned to Austin in August where the Longhorn coaches awarded him a scholarship where he became a deep snapper for placements.
“In 37 years of coaching, I am not sure I have ever come across a more amazing story like Nate’: said Texas Coach Mack Brown. “He came to us as a Special Forces veteran who wanted to walk on our football team despite never having played high school football because his school didn’t offer the sport. Through his tenacity, he made the team and won the respect of our coaches and his teammates alike. It is obvious that he has taken the skills he learned as an outstanding young soldier and used them to reflect an image of someone who is determined to succeed despite all challenges.”
Major Theodore O. Unbehagen, a Special Forces Officer for the Texas Army National Guard, added that Boyer "illustrated his technical and tactical expertise while wearing the Green Beret as well as his leadership and character while wearing the Texas Longhorn uniform. Nate’s commander in combat was a West Point football teammate of mine who knows, as I do, the importance of football and the military. Together they foster great character in a person, encompassing a multitude of positive attributes, all of which we agree Nate clearly possesses. Nate's actions and continued selfless service continue to foster support to his military family by his football family."
A graduate of Valley Christian High School in Dublin, Calif., Boyer fulfilled a commitment he had made after 9/11 by joining the Army (and being selected as a Green Beret) in 2004. When he finished his second tour of duty in 2009, Boyer decided to use funds from the GI Bill to get a college education. The winner of the Distinguished Young American Award from the Austin Chapter of the National Football Foundation, Boyer has worked regularly with kids at the Dell Children's Hospital. After being honored with members of the Stadium Veterans Committee at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Veterans Recognition Day as a freshman, Boyer was recruited in the spring of 2011 to resume his military career as a Special Forces member of the Texas National Guard.
Boyer is a member of the Athletics Director’s Honor Roll as a 4.0 student and a Provost Award semi-finalist studying physical culture and sports. He was named last month by University of Texas President William Powers as a member of the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Veterans Committee, filling the vacant role on the committee of a former Longhorn, the late Tom Landry.
When Coach Brown concluded his letter supporting Boyer’s nomination, he wrote that “Nate is a patriot, a leader, and a young man who reinforces to all of us that it is not possible to dream too big. Simply put, he had made it clear to our young people that their role is vastly different from the men and women who serve America in the Armed Forces. As he told them, ‘your worst day is better than their best day’”.