First Armed Forces Merit Award Recipient Still Serving
Nate Boyer (left) with Brant Ringler of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
With the second Armed Forces Merit Award to be presented this November, the first recipient from the University of Texas football team spent his summer assigned to a NATO Special Forces unit in Afghanistan.
Nate Boyer, a deep snapper for the Longhorns last fall and the Big 12 Sportsman of the Year, was named the inaugural winner of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) last November. A seven-person panel made up of FWAA members and representatives from the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth picked Boyer from a group of 15 nominations.
The same panel of FWAA members and BHAFB reps will select the 2013 winner. The deadline for nominations for the 2013 Armed Forces Merit Award is September 30. The panel will review the list of nominations in October with the second recipient being announced November 11 on Veteran's Day.
Nicknamed "Old Man or Grandpa" by his Longhorn teammates, Boyer returned to Austin at the end of July and "and was in the weight room the next day," said Texas athletic administrator Bill Little. "He's in amazing shape, but would like a little more bulk as he resumes his role as our deep snapper. He remains the most amazing story I have ever been around in 46 football seasons in this business."
Boyer, who played in UT's final 12 games as the snapper on PAT/FGs and earned first-team All-Big 12 Academic honors, earned his degree last spring with a 3.85 grade point average in physical cultural and sports. He also was the recipient of the 2012 Disney Spirit Award, given annually by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational figure.
While in Asia, Boyer was asked to "write something for the Texas Football website" by Joe Hernández of UT Media Relations Department. His article was dated July 4 as the United States celebrated its Independence day. At the end of the article, Boyer wrote - "There are so many troops just like me who are deployed right now that CAN'T WAIT for football season to begin. It's something that helps get us through the weeks, looking forward to Saturdays and Sundays even if we have to watch the games at 3 a.m. Afghanistan time. Watching the Longhorns play from Iraq back in the fall of 2008 is a big part of the reason that I came to school here and walked on. UT is easily the most popular team in the military, and on this deployment alone I have met dozens of fans who I fight alongside, and even a few Aggies and Sooners who admit that they quietly pull for us now because they have a soldier on their team."
After being named the Big 12 male Sportsperson of the Year, Boyer emailed Little about an article "The Longhorn, the Warrior and the Eagle" on the UT website. "Just read your article as I head to bed. Made me think of another award that I cherish," wrote Boyer. "My SF (Special Forces) team made me a plaque before I moved to Texas and it has this quote on it: "We are each of us Eagles with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another."
In Little's article, he noted that Boyer "was instrumental in the forming of a group called “Caring for Camo” - primarily made up of students who put together care packages for men and women of the US Military who are currently deployed. It was his way of reminding all of us that there are thousands of men and women who daily stand in harm’s way to defend the cause of freedom. I thought about that as I remembered the glory of the mountains and the sea in Alaska, and the eagle seemed an appropriate symbol for Nate. It is, in its way, the ultimate warrior in the skies. Its vision is four times better than that of a person with perfect vision. It can see a rabbit running from a mile away; it sees fish swimming underwater from a distance as high as a football field away."
Little's article concluded that the Bronze Star winning Green Beret Boyer is "a Longhorn, a warrior, an eagle, but most of all, an American soldier.