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 26.5 points, 420.8 total yards (164 rush/256.8 pass), 23.5 first downs and 32:59 possession time (2nd C-USA/16th FBS) per outing this fall. The 6-foot, 280-pounder leads the offensive line with 52 knockdown blocks, including a season-high 10 against Rice (Oct. 12).
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 30 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 10th entry of the fall.
Week #10: Spirit, Pride & Hopes
We were holding our birds high, really high. We held them as high as we could with a pair of high grade, fully-strapped shoulder pads on.
We were smiling wide, really wide. We smiled as wide as we could with tight jaws from chomping down before collisions for 60 minutes.
We were singing poorly, really poorly. We sang as poorly as a group of 100 jocks that think that singing loudly in the showers make them rock stars.
Although some of us may have been bleeding, for those moments the bleeding stopped. Although some of us may have been hurting, for those few moments, the hurting stopped.
As the bleeding and hurting stopped, the alma mater was playing loudly, as loudly as the spirit, pride and hopes of San Antonio. As the weight of those three values hung heavy upon our fully-strapped shoulder pads, we continued to hold our birds up high, smile wide and sing loudly.
As the band hit their final note, I turned toward the student section. Lined up against the railing were rowdy and eager students who had been there from the opening kickoff until the final play and were anxiously awaiting our acknowledgements. They are some of my favorite fans and their familiar faces are there week after week, whether we win or lose. It is a great feeling to be able to go down the line of outstretched hands and let those faithful fans know just how thankful I am that they show up and stay throughout the entire game. They, along with other faithfuls, know I don't merely thank them with a high-five or a hand shake, but with 60 minutes of jaw-clenching battle.
My girlfriend, Sam, and her family awaited me at the end of the line of outstretched hands, as they do every Saturday at the Alamodome. They don't get high-fives or handshakes, but rather sweaty, smelly hugs — a heartfelt souvenir for the drive home. As far as souvenirs go, I also gave Sam the glove I wore during the game. All the games are special to Sam, but this one had a more emotional meaning, as it was her last Homecoming football game as a student. Later that night, as both of our families sat down for dinner, Sam whispered that it was so sweet of me to give her my game glove in honor of her last homecoming as a student. A sly smile crept across my face and my cheeks turned an even deeper shade of red. I wish my intentions were as she mentioned, but due to the fact that some of my fingers were poking through the exhausted ends, that glove had seen its last game. It's a good thing that we won, because it was easy to laugh.
After I unintentionally used their shirts as towels to dry my sweat, I shot a glance to my own father and gave him our sign. He returned it with gusto and I knew he was proud of my performance. My grandfather was with him and giving me one of those gigantic waves with both arms. I made sure he saw me wave back before my eyes turned to the empty seat between them both, the seat that has been empty for every home game in program history. The seat I reserve for my mother. I looked toward the Heavens and my wide smile grew wider.
I then walked into the tunnel, past the curtains and off the stage.
Allow me to rewind.
It's Friday afternoon and we are all anxious for Rowdy Rally and to head to the Alamodome for our walk-through. We are all in our travel gear and seated for a quick team meeting when President Ricardo Romo walks into the room. Everyone sits up a little straighter and smoothens any wrinkles in our attire. We know that we are in for a treat when Coach Coker steps aside to allow President Romo to address the team. He clears his throat and gives a speech that reinforces how proud he is of us, of how much faith he has in us and of how much he believes in us. Honestly, that's exactly what we needed to hear. Those at the top who had faith in us at the beginning to build this program still have unwavering faith in us now.
Rowdy Rally is a neat event to experience, and if you haven't been or just don't go, you should! The Paseo is jumping with cheerleaders, the dance team, fans and, of course, the band. The cheerleaders cheer, the dance team dances and the band blares the fight song as we walk amidst the praise of fans. One familiar fan is always there, one that has been there from the beginning. Our athletics director, Lynn Hickey, stands proud as her team walks by. I couldn't walk past without telling her something that I felt she needed to hear. After an encouraging embrace, I looked her in the eyes and told her that there was no doubt that we were going to win this one. Without hesitation, she simply replied, "I know." That was the exact response I needed.
Night rolled around and the offense was gathered for our meeting in Crockett Room B of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The usual was to be expected. A video test of the first ten plays we were to run the next day and a cut-up film of our various formations. However, that is not what took place in Crockett Room B on this night. Instead, it was one of the most amazing and candid moments in my football career. The only people who will ever know what took place are the people who sat and listened faithfully to their teammates and coaches as many stories were shared, many tears were shed and our football family grew closer.
I don't know what the rest of this season holds and I certainly don't know the results, but what I do know is what I said with conviction to the media and the cameras after Saturday's victory. UTSA Football finishes what we start and what we have started here holds the weight of San Antonio's spirit, pride and hopes. As the weight of those three values hang heavy upon our fully-strapped shoulder pads, we will continue to hold our birds up high, smile wide and sing loudly.