In his words: Nate Leonard
SAN ANTONIO — Junior center Nate Leonard is back again this season with a blog that will give fans an inside glimpse into UTSA's first season as a member of Conference USA (C-USA).
Leonard has helped the Roadrunners start out the 2013 campaign with a 2-2 record, including last Saturday's 32-13 victory at UTEP in the program's inaugural C-USA contest. The UTSA offense is averaging 25.2 points, 415.5 total yards (143.7 rush/271.8 pass) and 23.8 first downs per outing this season and the 6-foot, 280-pounder has a team-leading 22 knockdown blocks.
A leader on and off the field, the McKinney native was instrumental in the team's success last fall. He helped UTSA open its second season with five consecutive victories and the Roadrunners finished the year with three straight wins en route to an 8-4 overall record and 3-3 mark in their first and only campaign in the Western Athletic Conference.
The only player in program history to start all 26 games, he recorded 34 pancakes a year ago and anchored an offensive line that allowed just seven sacks in 368 pass attempts (t-2nd FBS), as the Birds averaged 31.2 points and 390.2 yards (159.2 rush/231.0 pass) per outing.
Below is his fifth entry of the fall.
Week #5: Life Happens
Life happens and there is no other way to put it. Some of it is good and some of it is bad, but either way, it happens. In most cases, we are powerless to change it.
We feel as though we have control, but I have found that with the more control I feel I possess, the more powerless I actually am. I would like to think that I have it all figured out. I have a full-ride scholarship, a Division I starting position, a spacious deluxe dorm room and a near perfect GPA. I also have a beautiful girlfriend, a family who loves me, friends who appreciate me and youngsters who want to be me, so I must have it all figured out, right? I must be invincible, right? Right? I do not need to explain why these are all rhetorical questions.
Needless to say, life happens.
Payton Rion is my brother, not by blood, but by gridiron. A connection that in many cases, I have found, is more binding than blood. He shows up to workouts and works his tail off. He shows up to meetings and focuses his tail off. He shows up to practice and practices his tail off. He suits up for games and, you guessed it, plays his tail off. Not to mention, all of these tasks are accomplished with a smile. Payton Rion can tell you that life happens more than anyone. So, for his sake, please allow me to "tale" my tail off.
It was a humid early morning in sleepy San Antonio during last year's football season and your UTSA Roadrunners were grinding it out at practice. As we all know and as I have mentioned before, practice is practice. We were repeating rep after rep during our half-line option period and this rep was no different than the previous thousands we had repped before. We set the line, made our calls, put our hands in the grass and ran the play. We reconvened at the huddle, but instead of Payton's usual pep, he returned with a limp and with one of his paws clutched in his off hand. He had that look of unadulterated pain in his eyes. You know the look. Payton could have easily pulled himself from the drill, but he knew that by doing so, a bind would be placed on his brothers, so he stayed in and gutted it out. It was an act respected by the offensive line. An act even more respected when we found out that he had spiral-fractured his finger and hairline fractured his ankle … all in one play. There Payton was, repping plays with us again the next day.
So now that you know a little more about Payton Rion, you should understand what this team means to him and what he means to us. He is our brother. He is our family. It also should surprise you to know that he did not make the trip with us to El Paso, this weekend. A catastrophic event would have to occur for Payton Rion to not make a trip alongside his brothers and, unfortunately, it did. It was a catastrophic event in the form of family tragedy.
I did not know Reagon Rion and will not pretend to act like I did. I only will speak from the facts that I do know about her.
She was a fighter from the day she was born, which is a quality that I see in her brother each and every day. Just from the pictures I have seen of her, she had a priceless smile, and by the way her brother spoke of her, a priceless attitude, as well. From what I have garnered, she was the most fearless 12-year-old the world has ever seen and we all could learn something from the way she lived her life. The UTSA family has lost a sister and heaven has gained an angel.
I do not live in a bubble of tragedy. I really don't. For those of you who have followed my blogs from the last two years, you may get the impression that this is not the case. Tragedy just strikes. It always is inconvenient, unwelcomed and uncontrollable. As unfair as it is, tragedy is a part of life and life, well, life just happens.
However, there are many things that we can control and I believe we proved that in El Paso this past weekend with our 32-13 victory against the Miners of UTEP. For those sports writers who said we wouldn't win a conference game this year, I'd like to make a toast to this blog. Better yet, let's just make a toast to our defense.
I don't know all the stats, because I’m really not a stats kind of guy, but what I do know is that it was a dominating performance. From my perspective, I enjoy watching our defense work. There I am, sweaty, smelly and recovering from an offensive drive with an ice cold Gatorade in my hand just screaming my lungs off for our defense. Boy howdy, it is much more fun to watch our defense during games than it is to actually practice against them. I do not envy the other team's offense. This weekend, our defense held up to their "Hard Hat" name and left their calling card in El Paso by allowing only two field goals against an explosive Conference USA offense.
This game of football is funny to me sometimes. During every part of the year, except for 12 Saturdays in the fall, the defense and the offense are enemies. Even though we wear the same colors, we are enemies. We meet at different times, we lift at different times and I'm sure if we had it our way, we would eat at different times, but what is great about it is that, in the end, we all are brothers. We are all family and we would do anything for that guy next to us. We would do anything for the guy who goes through what we go through and who stands tall with us as the end of the day, no matter victory or defeat. We would do anything for guys like Payton Rion, who epitomize hard work and character, which is why that familiar lump formed in my throat when Coach Coker dedicated the game ball to him this week and why that familiar lump is starting to form in my throat now.
Sure, life happens and you can't always control it, but redemption is found in the fact that you can control whom you let your life happen with. Who you march “the 99” with. I am blessed that I march “the 99” with those of you who read my words. I am blessed that I march “the 99” in the blue and orange. I am blessed that I march “the 99” with my brothers. By God, I am blessed that I march “the 99” in this life at all.