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 2-4 record (1-1 C-USA). The UTSA offense is averaging 23.2 points, 401.5 total yards (133.3 rush/268.2 pass) and 23 first downs per outing this season and the 6-foot, 280-pounder has a team-high 37 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 28 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 seventh entry of the fall.
Week #7: For Love of the Game
At the end of each McKinney High School football practice, head coach Bobby Reyes would call us up and tell us to take a knee. He would tell us what we did well, what we needed to improve on and what the rest of the week looked like. We always loved it when he would tell us to be careful of what we posted on "MyFace." That was coach's made-up social networking site, an innocent mix of MySpace and Facebook. At least he had his bases covered. For the most part, he would do what every head coach around the nation does at the end of practice. However, there was one line that he would end each and every day with that set him apart from other coaches, one that has stuck with me. As he stood before his team, with his index finger shaking and a halfway grin on his face, he would say, "Football is for everyone, but it's not for everyone."
Everyone loves football. Even those who say they hate the game actually love it. There is just something about watching grown men hurl themselves at each other that turn warm-blooded humans into boiling-blooded creatures. The de-cleating tackles, quarterback sacks and play-making blocks. The breakaway runs, one-handed grabs and game-winning field goals. Coaches getting into it with the refs, fans getting into it with the players and mascots getting into it with each other. If you're not about the on-the-field action, then what about the pageantry of the sport? Cheerleaders being launched into the air, dancers shaking everything their mommas gave them and bands playing music that narrates the game and gives the stadium a heartbeat. Lukewarm nachos that make you question every decision you have made and souvenir mugs that force you to withdraw from your children's college funds. There's also the winning team showering their unsuspecting coach in ice-cold Gatorade (which is an art form and not an exact science, mind you) and the losing team staying poised in defeat knowing that there always is another game to be played. It gives me the chills to write about this way of life that some merely call "a game."
Let's be honest with ourselves here, fellow Texans (and I'm sure my non-Texan readers can attest to this), we are football elitists. If it is football-related and does not happen in Texas, then it might as well not be football at all. Every other state claims to play football, but it must just be a subpar variation of the football we play here in the Lone Star State. I mean, c'mon! We have movies and television shows dedicated to our football for crying out loud. We have Permian, Trinity, Steele, and Southlake Carroll! I have a tattoo that reads "Texas Forever" straight off of the Friday Night Lights TV series and, the last time I checked, that tattoo is not temporary like the artist promised. WE ARE THE MECCA OF FOOTBALL, I DO DECLARE! Clearly, I say all of this with a hint of both bias and jest. Let me just say that it is comforting to know that the sport I love is loved across the country, as well.
I got a glimpse of the love for football in West Virginia this weekend on a telling bus ride view from row 10, seat B. West Virginia was tree after tree and hill after hill. Then the view changed when we entered the town of Huntington and the shade of green changed too. Each house had a porch, each porch had a rocker and each rocker had a Marshall football fanatic who knew that we weren't the home team and they weren't afraid to show their disapproval. Of course, I couldn't help but to smile because it was awesome to see the love for football in the cozy West Virginia town. The next scene I saw quickly made my smile turn into one of those epic smiles you see someone have immediately after they get their braces off. The little boy couldn't have been older than five and he clearly did not dress himself. I'll start from the feet and work my way up. Trust me, no description would do this story justice, but I'll do my best. He had green light-up tennis shoes with green "Thundering Herd" pants and a greener "Thundering Herd" T-shirt on. His cheeks had temporary, yes, temporary, "Thundering Herd" logo tattoos on them and he was wearing a Marshall baseball cap. Naturally, he was easy to spot, and as we drove by, he was the most excited kid on the planet as he was jumping up and down and flailing his arms like I was to 'N Sync in the third grade. He knew that a football team was on that bus and his excitement showed. He had disappointed his mother something awful because as soon as she saw he was cheering our arrival, she swatted his arms down like pesky flies. She was dressed similarly to her son, which cleared up who had dressed the tot. Even after a scolding, he still was smiling. It didn't matter that we were the opposing team and that we were there on a mission to beat the "Herd" he was dressed for. He just loves the game. He loves the pageantry. Big or small, everyone loves football.
It's the greatest game in the world. It knocks you on your tail and forces you to get up. Not just because you have to, but because your team, your coaches and your fans depend on you to get up and keep fighting. It punches you in the gut and kicks you when you're down. It forces you to experience adversity, but once you are able to stand up again, with the assistance of your posse, a posse who loves the game as much as you do, that pit in your stomach turns into a fire. A desire. A desire that has been burning in my stomach for 22 years and a fire that will continue to burn when we face Rice in the Alamodome this Saturday. Adversity is upon us. You can choose to march “the 99" or you can stay down and let the pit in your gut get the best of you. Like a wise old coach once said, "Football is for everybody, but it's not for everybody."