Merging Veterans and Players (MVP) is an organization dedicated to bringing military veterans and former professional athletes together as a new team to help with the transition after disbanding. The organization was founded by renowned sportswriter Jay Glazer, but he has several people working with him to help the cause. One of them is Nate Boyer, who understands the connection between veteran and player very well because he has worn both uniforms.
Boyer is a retired United States Army Green Beret. He served a total of ten years, half on active duty and the other half as part of the National Guard. After graduating from Qualifying School, he served as a Green Beret throughout his military career and retired as a Staff Sergeant. Boyer was originally inspired to join the military after the September 11 attacks on the United States. These attacks inspired him to think about it, and he finally made the decision in 2004 after participating in a trip to Africa to help refugees.
“I was just blown away by the generosity and how grateful people were that an American was there to help them. "I wanted to be able to fight for those who can't fight for themselves and offer my services anywhere in the world it's needed."
Because of this decision, he followed in the footsteps of both his grandfathers who fought in World War II. He also has a cousin who joined the Air Force Academy. When Boyer decided to join, the United States already had a presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as elsewhere in the world. Being able to play a role in making the planet a safer place was something Nate Boyer believed he not only could do, but should do.
"I just wanted to be a part of it. I had a lot of friends sign up and I felt like it was the right time for me.”
Courtesy of Nate Boyer
A new world for Nate Boyer
Boyer's travels took him to many different places around the world, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Israel, Greece, Bulgaria and he was temporarily based in Japan. He was involved in many important missions and causes during this time. Of course he's proud of his entire career, but there was one moment that still stands out and that was when he became a Green Beret.
“I remember being in formation after two years of training. I was pretty sure I made it, but I didn't know," Boyer said. "There were Green Berets at graduation, and one of them came up behind me and whispered in my ear, 'Welcome to the Brotherhood.' I remember the shivers going through my body and the pride I felt.”
Nate Boyer would end his National Guard career while attending college at the University of Texas. He donned a different uniform during his school days - a Longhorns helmet and jersey as part of the football team. At age 29, it might be considered a bit late to start playing college football, especially if you've never played against an organized player in your life. Boyer didn't let that stop him from trying.
"I had never played before and it was a regret growing up," he recalled. “In the worst case, I would be circumcised and nothing changes. So I might as well try.”
Courtesy of Nate Boyer
Learn how to long snap on the fly
Boyer was not cut. He actually spent time learning how to reverse and walk routes while in Iraq, and that diligence paid off. He went on the team as safety and became a long snapper in his sophomore year. Boyer started for three years and has received multiple awards including Big 12 Sportsman of the Year 2012-13 and maiden Armed Forces Merit Award winner. Boyer is proudest of being able to call himself an Academic All-American. He's grateful for the time he spent on the Austin gridiron.
“That was very great. I was lucky enough to have this experience.”
Boyer's next steps would take him to the NFL. Despite not being drafted, he was signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. He ultimately didn't make the regular season list, but he was allowed onto the field in preseason, leading to a moment he's very proud of to this day.
"I was very blessed to have the opportunity with the Seahawks. I only played in one game but I led the team out of the tunnel with the American flag. I also had to play the entire second half of that game against the Denver Broncos and I had a good game.
Courtesy of Nate Boyer
Nate Boyer has found a new purpose in life
Nate Boyer hasn't played at all this season. He received calls the following offseason, but he never made a roster. He decided to retire from football at the age of 35. Around the same time Boyer was contemplating his future, an opportunity came to join Glazer and start MVP, and they made the most of it.
“We co-founded MVP on December 7, 2015. December 7th was the same day as Pearl Harbor Day in 1941. We are approaching our 7th anniversary, which we are quite excited about.”
The overarching mission of MVP is to help both combat veterans and ex-pro players find a new purpose and identity, which is very important as both groups connect with their uniforms as it is an extension of themselves and their missions is while wearing them. The importance of moving forward with a new chapter in life cannot be overstated.
"The main thing that's missing from both the vets and the players is the dressing room and the lads," noted Boyer. "Mission and purpose aside, you can't find that camaraderie anywhere else."
Boyer shared that the bond they miss comes from players going through camps and seasons with other players, including setbacks, losses and injuries. Military personnel go through all of this and more simply because of the commitment they make to the country. MVP's work not only helps both groups build new connections, it also plays a positive role in the lives of the people they work with and their families.
“This is what MVP was born from. It's that belief that there's a lot more in the tank and we can do more great things, but we need to find like-minded people who have experienced what we have experienced.”
MVP has eight chapters across the country, as well as a virtual chapter that veterans and former pros can join to continue MVP's mission. To learn more, visit www.vetsandplayers.org and follow @mergingvetsandplayers on Instagram.
Follow Nate Boyer on Instagram @nateboyer37.