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 offense average 22.9 points, 406.1 total yards (152 rush/254.1 pass) and 23.1 first downs per outing this fall.
A leader on and off the field, the McKinney native was instrumental in the team's success last year. 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 29 games, he recorded 34 pancakes a season 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 eighth entry of the fall.
Week #8: Encouragement
So there I was, sitting fat and happy in Frisco, Texas. Of course, in this context, "fat and happy" is merely a saying. Fat? Eh, although I wasn't in the shape I am now, I don't believe "fat" is the proper vernacular, but that may be a biased view on the "matter." Happy? Not in any stretch of the imagination.
It was muggy, so I was sweaty. Extra sweaty. Which, for those of you who don't know me as well as you should, is 10 times the amount of sweat than a normal human being produces. Nate Lake.
It was an obnoxiously small locker room, so I was cramped. Extra cramped. Of course, when you try to fit an entire football team into a locker room the size of an equipment closet, you are going to run into a large and smelly list of problems.
We were tied, so I was irritable. Extra irritable. Irritable like finding a shirt I love and they only come in men's extra small. Skinny men. Irritable like waiting 15 minutes in a drive thru and, when I get to the window, I'm handed a drink with the lid half off/half on and precious sips of liquid gold just dripping down the side. Extra napkins, please.
We weren't supposed to be tied with Frisco High School that year. We had one of the most explosive offenses in the state, one that averaged well over 400 yards and 45 points per game. Coach was not a happy camper and he let us know about it at halftime, which is where my story picks up again.
So there I was, sitting on a wooden plank-like seat in the shower reserved for people with disabilities (it was the only spot available in the closet-like locker room unless I wanted to take a seat upon some of the skill guys … all my fellow o-linemen were taken) listening to Coach Reyes' rant when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, my world collapsed. Literally. I found myself a bit disoriented and shaken from the ordeal. I looked around to regain my whereabouts and all I saw were bits of concrete and nail that were viciously ripped from the wall and now lay strewn about the damp shower floor. Maybe an answer to the whole "fat and happy" debate. And the seat? Well, the seat had seen much better and more productive halftime roosts.
I was greeted back to reality by the hyena-like howls of our standout wide receiver, Matt Lipka. Of course, the howls and the muffled laughter were the only voices that were trapped in that sweaty horror room as one voice, a ranting and irritable one, had stopped mid-speech.
Coach Reyes' face went from red to that all-too-familiar shade of purple. That shade just below heart attack and I braced for impact. I'll just say it's satisfying to be able to look back on that traumatic experience and laugh.
I had to think of funny things, today, as I sat in the uncomfortably frigid cold whirlpool. The trainers always tell us to just go to our happy place, which is all well and good, but this isn't a scene from "Happy Gilmore." Ice sickle bees are stinging my body and you expect me to just up and go to my happy place? At least I had my brother in arms sitting in the whirlpool next to me. I gingerly turned to Eric Soza and, without hesitation, asked him to hit me with his most embarrassing football story. He smiled and we laughed. The first smile I had seen from him since before the kickoff of the Rice game. He paused for a minute and stared at the blue bubbles forming at the side of the whirlpool, like the bubbles were showing him a highlight reel of embarrassing moments. I knew he had picked the one because his smile grew wider and he didn't once take his eyes off of those blue bubbles.
It was the Bi-District Championship against Medina Valley and Beeville Jones High School quarterback Eric Soza was back in punt formation to fulfill his other duty as punter. A cold front had just blown into the area and Eric hadn't though much of it. He had visions of a booming kick on his mind. Glory. Punter glory. The snap spiraled perfectly to him and he caught it, took a step and BOOM! There it went, perfectly struck off of his golden foot and, well, straight into the cold front.
Eric paused his story here and moved some of the bubbles aside, as if to somehow erase the aftermath that was to follow. The wind thwarted the momentum of the ball and Eric watched in horror as the flight path of the ball was headed for negative yards. He strained to get to the ball and, as he did so, he made a valiant (however, illegal) effort to knock the ball forward beyond the line of scrimmage. Eric whiffed and watched in dismay as the dying ball denied him his punter glory.
Football players are an interesting breed, just as anybody is who belongs to a certain group. We love ourselves and our abilities, even though sometimes we may dwell upon the lack of some abilities we wish we had. Perfection. Many people would call that being egotistical, but I am done with the vernacular debates ever since the "fat and happy" debacle. We take great pride in our work and our job. We are quick to get defensive when others try to make light of it or our mistakes. We all have embarrassing moments, but it would be a shame if your embarrassing moments included bashing amateur student-athletes on Facebook, Twitter and message boards. Amateur student-athletes want nothing more than to please their fans. That's discouraging, but what is encouraging is when my teammates open up to me about mishaps that we can laugh about now that maybe weren't as funny as when they unfortunately took place. It encourages me when my teammates share with me that they are human. That we are all human.