Before Nate Boyer became the starting long-snapper for the Texas Longhorns, he spent six years in the U.S. Army Special Forces, serving in Iraq. The 31-year-old walk-on is also a staff sergeant for the Texas National Guard, so when he speaks, teammates listen. Looking for inspiration? STACK asked Boyer for his thoughts on being a leader.
What makes a leader?
Leaders are willing to get down on their hands and knees with the rest of their teammates and do what needs to be done. They don’t see themselves as different from the people they’re leading.
How has the military made you a better leader?
A certain amount of responsibility is given to you, especially when you rise to the rank of sergeant. Certain things are expected of you. Whether you’re in charge or not, you have to lead by example. When you’re thrust into responsible positions, you have to succeed, regardless of whom you’re working with.
How important is it to lead by example?
It’s the best way to lead, and it’s the best way to learn from a leader. You can say something all day long, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not practicing what you preach. Some of the best leaders don’t even have to say anything. Whether people are watching them or not at any given time, they’re always focused on doing something the right way and doing it 100 percent. Eventually that’s going to get noticed and someone’s going to recognize it. People follow actions more than they ever follow words.
What differences are there between a leader in the military and a leader on the football field?
Just being in the military, you gain confidence in every aspect of your life. There’s a lot of discipline involved. When you apply that to your life and set goals, daily obstacles don’t seem so difficult.
How does military service help citizen-soldiers lead in their communities?
Just being in the military, whether it’s full active duty or in the National Guard, you’re going to gain confidence in every aspect of your life because you have to overcome challenges. It’s difficult to be a soldier at any level. There’s a lot of discipline involved. When you relate that to everyday life, if you’re giving yourself in that way, it becomes easier to achieve what you’re aiming at. You have more succinct, specific goals and daily obstacles don’t seem as difficult.
What does it take to have great character?
I think you have to want to be a good person. I’m noticing with myself that I’m not where I want to be. I’m not the man I envisioned, but I know that I’m working toward that. Every day with mistakes I make and stumbling, I’m still pursuing that idea. Whether I’m ever considered someone who has great character or not isn’t important. It’s the fact that I’m doing what I can to attempt that.
When have your leadership skills been tested the most?
My leadership skills were tested the most in Iraq, because my teammates and I, about 10 of us, were given 100-plus soldiers to fully train and then lead out on missions and fight alongside. You definitely want those guys to be as adept as possible, because the goal is to successfully complete the mission; but you want to do that with minimal risk and casualties if you can. You want to make sure all of you are safe and protected. You’re challenged as a leader because you basically have to take these untrained soldiers who are willing, but don’t understand what it takes to be successful. You have to put that ideology in their heads, that if they work hard and follow your lead, they’re going to be successful. You have to always lead by your actions and maintain confidence in them and yourself even if you don’t always feel it. You need to be that light they recognize and know as something consistent.
What’s the key to having confidence?
For me, the key to having confidence is overexposing or overtraining myself on a specific task until I almost know that I can’t get it wrong with as many times as I’ve done it. I’m all about a lot of repetitions of a certain task to perfect it to the point where you’re hitting a fine line to where it can be detrimental if you’re doing it too much. But I’ll do it over and over and over and run it through my mind and physically practice these things until I’m 100 percent confident that under a pressure situation I’ll be able to succeed. That goes with military, football and anything else. You can’t over-practice if it’s perfect practice, and that’s how I gain confidence.
How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by my goals that are always changing. Once you reach one, there’s always a bigger one you can go after. Just being fluid with that, you have to kind of forget whatever successes you’ve had and just focus on what you haven’t accomplished. That keeps me motivated, because I never get comfortable or satisfied with where I am.
What are ways to overcome adversity?
First, you have to recognize that there is adversity and not be afraid of it. You have to realize that you’ve been in situations like this before, where you felt like you couldn’t succeed, and then you just pushed through and you were able to. Just that knowledge of knowing no matter how tough it is right now, if you get over that mountain, your goal is on the other side, no matter how much you’re hurting right now. And it’s not just with yourself, sometimes people have been through the same thing you’re going through and you think if they can do it, you can do it. That’s the way to at least mentally prepare.
How can someone become mentally tough?
Don’t shy away from challenges. Take them on. Whether you succeed or not, you’ll be tougher because you weren’t afraid to try.
Explain how you live the seven Army National Guard values.
All of those traits are very important. It’s something they instill in you from basic training on. When you go back and read what they are, they really are what make a soldier a great soldier. With the National Guard, it’s all about living those values every second of every day, not just when you’re on duty. I think it definitely promotes a better person. People who are successful in the world, whether they’re in the military or not, usually have most of those values. I’m not speaking about success in the monetary value of the world, I’m talking about people who are happy and get a lot done, normally the people you look up to.