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 win three consecuitve games en route to a 5-5 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in conference play, and that has them one game out of first place in C-USA's West Division. The offense is averaging 25.6 points, 408.1 total yards (173 rush/235.1 pass), 21.9 first downs and 31:42 possession time per outing this fall and the 6-foot, 280-pounder leads the offensive line with 60 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 32 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 12th entry of the fall.
Week #12: Let's Change The World
I am a firm believer that time slows down. It has happened to me throughout my life and, most often, during sporting events. Whether it be the pitch I hit for a walk-off double in the bottom of the last inning with a full count or the cut block I made 40 yards down field on a game winning jail-break screen as the fourth quarter ended, time was slowed.
However, not all of this time change has occurred while playing. Important events in my life, life-changing events to be exact, have been the culprit of slowing time.
Like when I stood in front of hundreds of people at my mother's funeral and shared the poem I had written for her. Like when Coach Coker sat me in his office and offered me a full-ride scholarship to play football at UTSA. Like when I walked into a summer school classroom and saw Samantha for the first time. Perhaps it's due to an intense focus or as our offensive graduate assistant, Jeff Bowen, stresses to us, a heightened sense of things. I believe that perhaps the universe slows down for certain individuals at certain times because it's their time to change the world.
Time slowed for me this past Saturday in the fourth quarter of our ballroom brawl against Tulane. I think for everyone at the Alamodome, no matter how busy life was at the time, no matter how loud the band was playing or the cheerleaders were cheering or the beer was "beering," time slowed down.
I set the huddle and the offense anxiously awaited the play call to come in from the sideline. We knew the game was on the line and that this was the play that was either going to win us the game outright or be the cause for overtime. It wasn't necessarily the outcome of the play or the outcome of the game that made us anxious. Rather, it was the opportunity that we had in that moment to exalt our teammates, our team and our university.
The fans, 25,000 strong, all were on their feet in anticipation, as well. Eric got the play from the sideline and flipped up his wristband. It was a slide-protection pass play and Eric made sure to let us know that we needed to give him time to make his reads. Of course, we already knew that, as protecting our quarterback is the offensive line's responsibility, but hearing him ask for it the way he did, made his request that much more profound. I could hear it in his voice. I could hear the confidence in Eric's voice that if we gave him sufficient time in the pocket, he was going to do something great. The confidence that told us, in that moment, we were going to change our world.
I usually don't have the luxury to watch a play unfold because, well, I am busy helping that play unfold by having my facemask buried in someone's numbers or rib cage, but this play was different from the rest. My right guard, Will Cavanaugh, and I were working over the 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose guard when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a wide-open blue jersey darting across the field.
It was Seth Grubb. The 5-foot-9 receiver who was told by many people that he wasn't big enough or talented enough to play Division I football had snuck past one of the best defenses in Conference USA.
"THERE HE IS ERIC! THERE HE IS!" I was shouting and screaming in my head and just praying to the good Lord above that Eric saw him as well. Sure enough, as I heard the laces rip and saw the ball fly, Eric had seen him, too.
I'm not sure if there was a more deserving player to throw the ball to on that field. Seth is one of the hardest working guys I ever have met and had the privilege to suit up next to. Like many of us on the team, he has a great story.
He wasn't heavily recruited when he graduated from Class 3A La Vernia High School. There were no scouts knocking at his door or blowing up his phone line. With no big scholarship offers, he decided to walk-on here at UTSA and quickly proved that he belonged by earning the respect of his teammates and coaches. I'll never forget how I felt when the announcement was made that the coaches were going to put him on scholarship. I think, just maybe, that familiar lump formed in my throat and something had gotten in my eye. I think, just maybe, time slowed down for Seth then as it did for all of us on Saturday.
Seth's sure hands hauled in the football and sealed the fate of the game. After Sean Ianno's 34-yard field goal put us ahead by three with a mere 14 seconds left on the clock, there wasn't much to do on the sideline but embrace the guys who suit up next to you each and every day. Embrace and remind them that you love them and have their back. This team is made up of guys that nobody wanted and, after we play the teams that didn't want us, we remind them that they want no more of us. More importantly, this team is made up of guys who love each other and fight for each other. We claw and brawl each and every play for one another. Quite simply, we live for each other and, when you have that, it's pretty darn easy to change the world.