RENTON, Wash. » Nate Boyer received the type of reception normally reserved for star quarterbacks and shutdown cornerbacks after finishing his first practice with the Seattle Seahawks.
Not bad for an undrafted free agent long snapper. But no long snapper has a story like Boyer’s.
"It’s hard to grasp for us to understand what he’s gone through and what he’s endured and the mentality it’s taken to accomplish the things he’s accomplished," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "And the guys he’s been with, too. It’s not just Nate. All the guys he’s shared his time with fighting for our country and all. He’s an amazing man. We’re thrilled to have him.
"He snaps the ball pretty sweet, too."
The former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces faced a wall of cameras and plenty of questions about his military past, his football aspirations, and the opportunity he’s getting with the Seahawks after concluding the first day of rookie minicamp on Friday.
Boyer, 34, was a walk-on at Texas after his distinguished military career, and became the Longhorns’ starting long snapper for his final three seasons. He was signed by the Seahawks immediately after the draft concluded last weekend.
"Today to be able to say I’m officially an NFL player, as long as it lasts it’s amazing," Boyer said.
Boyer received just as much attention as any of Seattle’s eight draft picks on the first day of rookie camp, even if he spent most of it working off on a side field with punter Kyle Loomis, another undrafted free agent.
He also has a special view and appreciation for football framed around his experiences in the military as a Green Beret. Boyer did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and earned a Bronze Star, gaining the rank of Staff Sergeant before leaving the Army.
And then he learned how to be a long snapper.
"As much as I love this game, it is a game. No one is out there losing friends," Boyer said. "That perspective out here has helped me relax and enjoy it. You don’t play tight when you’re like that. If I am not perfect, but as long as I give maximum effort all of the time, that’s something I can control."
For his part, Carroll intends on treating Boyer like any other player, and when the time is right may call on his military experience to help make a point in the Seahawks’ locker room.
"I don’t know Nate well enough yet to know how that will come to light. But I like to think that anybody’s background might be a benefit to us in some ways," Carroll said. "When the timing is right and we’re able to mix it in with our regular routines, I’m going to try to call on it. I’m not going to treat Nate any differently than I treat anybody else."
While Boyer has a story no one can match, making Seattle’s final roster may be difficult with Clint Gresham firmly entrenched as the long snapper. Gresham re-signed with Seattle in the offseason and has been the Seahawks’ long snapper for the past five seasons.
But Boyer said Gresham was one of the first to reach out after he signed with Seattle, and welcomed the competition.
"I am a huge daydreamer, but I believe I can do it. What I have learned and what was instilled in the military was how to work toward that and what you have to sacrifice," Boyer said. "It takes a huge amount of sacrifice because everyone wants to do this. You have to be willing to accept the fact you might fail — that’s just part of it. When you get to a level like this, it’s not failing. It may not work out the way you hope, but it’s not failing."