Friday afternoon Nate Boyer took the field for the first time as a professional football player.
Rookie minicamp provided Boyer his first opportunity to wear a Seahawks jersey. It seems fitting since he has followed key Seahawks philosophies of "always compete" and "it's all about the ball" for years.
Boyer, a 34-year-old former Green Beret, started his football career at the age of 29 because he wanted to compete.
"A lot of the reason I decided to come back [from overseas deployment] and try and play college football is that I never played before," Boyer said. "It was something I always wanted to do and I had a regret in that I never played. I loved it, it was my favorite sport…it was like that box I hadn't checked, that one thing that nagged at me."
At first the competition was simply to make the team at the University of Texas, a storied program under the direction of long-time coach Mack Brown. Boyer's always compete attitude pushed him even further.
"I walked-on as a safety, I was a scout team safety," said Boyer. "I wanted to be a starter and I wanted to play so I had to find a niche. A job opening happened my sophomore year. The long snapper was graduating and so was the backup so I picked up a ball and figured it out and the rest is history."
The records at Texas show Boyer became a three-year starter. He was never credited with a bad snap. However, they won't detail the hundreds of reps it took for Boyer to become that consistent. He knew it was all about the ball and leaned on his military training as a framework for how to gain consistency.
"I always equate it to the similarities in shooting a pistol," Boyer said. "When I first started my pistol training in the military, I shot a gun a handful of times so it's repetition and little details. We always say slow is smooth and smooth is fast. And you work on that, and work on that and then gradually you do it quicker and you do it better, and if you build bad habits you have to go back. It's the exact same thing with long snapping."
Boyer spent long, solitary hours on football fields and empty fields honing his craft. He crammed as many reps into his day as he could during tours in Afghanistan with the Army Reserves.
"I was snapping to walls," he said. "I would go out on the field and snap into the goal posts and use that as a target. When I was in Afghanistan I built a target out of plywood with a couple holes in it as my bulls-eyes; one higher up for punts and one lower for field goals."
He no longer has to practice on his own and will be working with special teams coach Brian Schneider, as well as incumbent long snapper Clint Gresham, who was among the first to call Boyer and congratulate him after the Seahawks offered the free agent a contract.
Boyer feels confident with his snapping abilities and anticipates the biggest adjustment will be learning a different blocking scheme. In college he blocked a zone, but he'll be asked to block a man in the pros. That's where his 5-10, 216 pound frame comes into question.
"We need to see if he can hold up blocking-wise," Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. "He's not a big man. We know that he's going to give you everything he's got, which is all we've ever asked of our guys. Now we've got to see how that translates."
Boyer's size and limited football experience make him a long shot to make the Seahawks roster. He's been in that position before. He'll keep competing and living out his dream of playing football, whatever the outcome.
"When you get to the level like this it's not failing," Boyer said. "It might not work out the way you hope, but it's not failing."