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Courtesy: Jeff Huehn/UTSA Athletics

In his words: Nate Leonard

Courtesy: UTSA Athletics
Release: 08/31/2014
Courtesy UTSA Athletics
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SAN ANTONIO — Senior center Nate Leonard is back again this season with a blog that will give fans an inside glimpse into UTSA Football.

A leader on and off the field, Leonard was instrumental in the team's success last fall, as the Roadrunners won their last five games en route to a 7-5 overall record and 6-2 mark in their first campaign as a member of Conference USA.

The McKinney native is a member of the preseason Dave Rimington Trophy watch list (nation’s top center) and he earned preseason second-team All-Conference USA accolades from Athlon Sports. The only player to start all 34 games in program history was a 2013 second-team Capital One Academic All-American in addition to being named the 2013-14 Conference USA Scholar-Athlete of the Year for football.

Leonard is coming off a junior season that saw him record a team-leading 70 knockdown blocks and he also graded out at 82 percent. The 6-foot, 280-pounder was a key part of an offensive line that did not commit a holding penalty during the season while helping the offense average 25.6 points, 417.8 total yards (175.4 rush/242.4 pass), 21.9 first downs and 32:24 possession time per contest.

Below is his first entry of the fall.

Week 1: Back To The Beginning
My dorm room tells the story of yet another fall football camp in the books.

Black turf pellets adorn my bed, bathroom and wardrobe, not to mention the Hansel and Gretel-like pellet trail leading into the room. My hands and feet never will be the same, leaving behind the silky-smooth, skin-covered look for a fall-fashioned scabby presentation. My farmer's tan never has been in such mint condition. It leaves no discretion between milky white and the Texas sun-kissed tan. My trash can is feeling the burden as well, bursting at the seams with bone-dry bottles of water and Gatorade, Band-Aids and the minty-fresh aroma of Bengay. However, just like all fall camps end, the trash can will be emptied, the tan will even out, the skin will heal and the pellets will dissipate.  

If this intro sounds familiar, it should. It is the intro I used for my very first blog two seasons ago and its words still hold true today. This, my old friends, is the first entry of my final blog as a UTSA Roadrunner and the last time this intro will apply to my life. As my last football season approaches, consider it a farewell tour.

It was a scorching hot summer day in Texas. It was a usual Texas day, that is. I was wearing a black American Eagle polo, an ever-trusty pair of cargo shorts and some basketball shoes with extra insoles in them. I hadn't yet accepted the fact that, without added insoles, I was short in the world of college football and I didn't need to look short at this particular moment in time.

My face was pale, fresh and smooth. I had shaved the day before, but it wasn't like I really needed to. My head was square and my cut was high and tight. I had worn the flat top hair style for as long as I could remember.

As I sat in the passenger seat of my dad's Suburban, I realized that wearing a black shirt was a rookie error. It attracted so much sun that my back was sweating and sticking to the leather seat. I will blame the sun for the sweat and not the culmination of my nerves.

Neither of us said a word. Really, nothing needed to be said. For the first 18 years of my life, my dad and I had been separated for a week at the most except for the occasional summer camp. As we sat, we stared at the structure that would reverse that role and only allow us to see each other for a week or so at a time.

It was move-in day at UTSA. I was just a boy and UTSA Football was hardly an infant.

Today is a scorching hot summer day in Texas, so it's a usual Texas day. I am wearing a grey UTSA football shirt, an ever-comfortable pair of UTSA workout shorts and some low profile sandals. I have accepted the fact that I am one of the shortest starting offensive linemen in Division I football and I take great pride in that fact.

My face is tanned, chapped and scruffy. I probably should have shaved today, but I really just didn't feel like it. My head is still square, but my hair is thinning, and I haven't worn the high and tight for quite some time now.

As I sit in the desk chair of my dorm room, I realize that my dream of playing Division I college football is in its final act. My hands are sweating and I will blame my diligent typing and not the culmination of my emotions.

I just got off the phone with my dad and I haven't seen him for a couple of months. Luckily, that absence will end Friday in Houston when we take on the U of H Cougars.

It's game week at UTSA. I am no longer a boy, but a man, and UTSA Football no longer is an infant, but a nationally-known program to be reckoned with.

I say I'm a man, but only because at 23 years of age, I have helped build something that will last forever. I helped build it with my hands and a commitment of time and body that I feel only a man could make. I didn't do it alone, of course. I had a team of men … "The Original 18."

"The Original 18" are the guys on this year's team that have been here from the start. From the moment in time when we practiced six days a week, lifted four days a week, practiced in UTEP hand-me-down gear and didn't play a single game. The same guys who signed on the dotted line to play at a football program that didn't even exist outside a football and some replica jerseys in the bookstore. We are the ones who blindfolded ourselves, stepped to the ledge and jumped because we were told that it would all be worth it at the bottom. We jumped alright, but we find that we landed ourselves at the top.

Being a member of "The Original 18" is an honor that I share with these fine men. They others are Crosby Adams III, Brandon Armstrong, Richard Burge, David Glasco II, Seth Grubb, Cody Harris, Earon Holmes, Cole Hubble, Sean Ianno, Scott Inskeep, Nic Johnston, Kam Jones, Marcellus Mack, Ferrington Macon, Cody Rogers, Nate Shaw and Darrien Starling.

"The Original 18" will be the theme for this final season of blogs, as it very well should be. In each blog, I will highlight one of the 18, excluding myself, of course, and have them contribute to the blog by allowing them to voice their own thoughts, experiences and opinions about UTSA Football. This will be a very special series to accompany a very special season.

So, when the Friday night clock strikes 8 p.m., I will be buckling my chinstrap across my scruffy, unshaven face and taking the field for the last first time with 17 of the most honorable men I know. Most importantly, I will fight alongside them to protect and uphold something that only we could build: the legacy of UTSA Football.

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