Revealing who will raise the 12 Flag at CenturyLink Field before the Seahawks kick off every home matchup is a tradition typically reserved for gameday, but as has been the case for each of the team's annual Salute to Service games presented by USAA, the individual who will do those honors was announced as Seattle's game-week preparations got underway this week.
Former Green Beret Special Forces member Nate Boyer, who had a short stint as the Seahawks' long snapper last summer, will raise the 12 Flag prior to the team's primetime game against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, November 7.
Boyer, 35, said he felt "nothing but pride" when he got the call asking him to uphold a custom the Seahawks have showcased before each home game since October 2003.
"I honestly wouldn't want to do it at any other game," Boyer said of the Seahawks' Week 9 matchup that features several military appreciation elements. "Not that I would turn it down, but such an honor, seriously."
Boyer was deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, serving in the U.S. Army's 10th Special Forces Group. He was a walk-on long snapper at the University of Texas and signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Seahawks before the 2015 season. He was released by the club before the regular season, but played in one preseason game against the Denver Broncos, making six accurate snaps and also getting in on a fumble recovery.
"I think the reason I was able to get so far with the lack of talent I have was because of what I learned in the military," Boyer said. "Toughness and grit and never giving up, never quitting, and out-working everybody. Putting more time in, sacrificing more, all those things I learned from my time in service. That's the only reason I had that opportunity with the Seahawks, especially at that age."
During his time in service, Boyer said watching sports — football in particular —during the little free time he had provided "relief and a break from everything." Having that "little piece of home, my little piece of America," as Boyer called it, was "very important" to him, and one of the reasons why the NFL's Salute to Service efforts throughout the month of November mean so much.
"Recognizing that and honoring that, it means a lot to me," he said. "It's very special. Everybody has different views. There's people that think we shouldn't do that. There's people that think we shouldn't play the anthem at these events. That's their opinion, and that's their right. We fought for that as well.
"For me, for someone where it has a special meaning to me, the flag and that symbolism, and I think in such a privileged arena as professional sports to at least be recognizing that the reason this is possible is because of brave men and women that are fighting literally right now and so many that have gone before us and aren't here to enjoy it, it's a way of honoring them and recognizing them.
"I think it's very important and I'm proud to be a small part of it."
Since his exit from the NFL, Boyer has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness about the global clean-water crisis and launched a non-profit called Merging Veterans and Players, which empowers combat vets and former NFL players to live a life of pride and purpose while re-establishing a sense of relevancy, dignity, and value in the world. Boyer said he plans to return to the Seattle area on Sunday ahead of Monday night's game with his mother, brother and sister in tow to be a part of what he called "a chance of a lifetime sort of opportunity."
"While I didn't spend a ton of time up there in Seattle, I've never experienced a fanbase like that," Boyer said. "And honestly, from what I've heard from a lot of other players in the League, not every locker room is like that with the brotherhood and love for one another. I think that extends throughout the city and it definitely extends throughout that stadium. The one preseason game I played in was a sellout, it was raining, and it was loud, it was crazy. I just immediately saw how much it means to that city. That all comes from those guys wearing the blue and green and putting those pads on, the way they go about business and play for one another, it's just a different kind of culture that really resonates with that whole area. That alone is very special.
"Seattle is such a big military town," he added. "There's so many active duty and also veterans that live in and around the area, so just being able to stand in front of them, there's going to be a ton of them on the field, some of my Green Beret brothers, that's huge to me. I'm so proud of that. I just wish there was more people, some of my friends that didn't make it back that could be there to witness that moment. That's the one thing that really kind of sucks, but it's part of the job. So the best that we can do is honor them with the way we live our lives moving forward. This is a huge thing for me. I'll have all those people in my heart, in my mind when I'm standing out there for the anthem and raising the flag before kickoff."
The Seahawks adopted a new military unit for the 2016 season on Tuesday, October 11 at CenturyLink Field in a USAA 'Change of Command' ceremony that saw U.S. Navy, Region Northwest accept the honor from U.S. Marine Corps, Security Force Battalion, Bangor WA.