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.
Leonard has helped the Roadrunners start out the 2013 campaign with a 1-2 record. The UTSA offense is averaging 23 points, 425.6 total yards (131.3 rush/294.3 pass) and 25.3 first downs per outing this season and the 6-foot, 280-pounder has a team-leading 16 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 25 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 fourth entry of the fall.
Week 4: “FIDO”
Let me first answer the question I know you are asking to yourself. "FIDO" stands for "Forget It, Drive On." It has been a saying of this program for as long as I have worn the blue and orange and usually is stressed after something unpleasant. Unpleasant as in a poor block. Unpleasant as in a poor practice. Unpleasant as in losing. I really expected to win this last game, which sounds silly to me for even typing because I expect to win every game. I am sorry for already spending a whole paragraph recapping unpleasant things, but my weekend was very unpleasant.
As I have stressed before, this blog is about you experiencing what it is like to be me. It may be more pleasant for you to stop reading now and open a new browser to search for pictures of cute puppies. It may be more pleasant for you to watch a replay of Miley Cyrus' Video Music Awards performance. It may be more pleasant for you if I sugarcoat everything and glue a smile on your face, but that would be untrue to the purpose of this blog and being untrue is very unpleasant.
I was getting in my zone. I had my gotti-orange Beats headphones on and probably was listening to some alternative rock, such as MS MR or Smallpools while sitting on the floor of the hotel lobby in front of a stand of Arizona tourism pamphlets. A brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt caught my eye as its host traveled down the glass elevators of the Hilton. It was my father, which really put one of those ear-to-ear smiles on my face. I popped off the ground as if I were in the midst of an up-downs session and briskly paced myself to the elevators as dad walked around the corner. What I saw was an anomaly. Such an exuberant shirt set off a face I knew too well. A face that haunts me. A face that means something is very unpleasant.
Dad then said something that he never says in a tone that he never speaks.
"Nate, I need to tell you something."
I already knew something was out of place, but that greeting confirmed that what was out of place was serious. I only had heard that greeting once before, at a track meet in Little Elm, Texas, and my mother's funeral followed a week after. Many things attacked my emotions in that hotel lobby and all of them were unpleasant. Dad looked me in the eyes and told me something that I never thought I would hear, something that I never wanted to hear.
There aren't many people like Wes Salley. I've never been around someone who smiled so much. Talk about ear-to-ear smiles. Wes was ear-to-ear, all the time. The world could be ending, just crumbling to the ground, and I believe Wes still would be smiling. His attitude was contagious and just by him being happy made everyone around him happy. Nothing needed to be sugarcoated and no smiles needed to be glued to his face. Happy was just who he was. As children, we were inseparable and, by we, I mean the trio of Wes, Trey Anderson and me.
Growing up in Far North Dallas, we took the youth sports scene by storm. We all were on the same teams, at all the same camps and at each other's houses all the time. There is a great picture of the three of us hanging in dad's office. A picture that is cherished by all three families and it has even more meaning to us now. Snapped right after a muddy tee ball game, we posed, arms around each other and smiling. That is the way I always will remember it. Wes was my friend and he forever will be loved and missed (click here to read Wes' obituary)
Dad hugged me and told me to play this game for Wes. I am the type of person who feels as though I don't need any motivation. Being a Division I scholarship student-athlete is all the motivation I need, but after hearing that I had lost a close friend, I not only was playing for my Roadrunners family, but I was playing for a member of my own family. I just hope I didn't let you down, Wes. You sure never let me down.
I now have one more person to march "the 99" for. "FIDO" does not apply to losing, Wes, because I will never forget it, but I must drive on and will drive on with your spirit in mind. I will play each and every game, remembering you, and it will be an honor.
UTEP is this Saturday. I know it sounds odd, but it feels like a playoff atmosphere to me because each and every week from here on out is our road to a conference championship and a bowl appearance. I also am excited to play in the Sun Bowl. I've heard many stories about how great the venue is and how all the crowd noise gets trapped in the mountains, making it a hostile place to play.
Well, I'm ready to put the stories to rest and find out for my own self. It now is time for Conference USA football, a conference that we only dreamed of playing in merely three years ago.
My goodness, have you ever just sat down and thought about how fast this program has made it to the national stage? It was only four years ago that UTSA Football had only one helmet and one football to our name and now we are playing with some of the best teams in the country and, by playing, I mean going toe-to-toe and exchanging punches like a heavyweight boxing bout. I am blessed to know the people I know and play for the team I do.
If you have made it to this last paragraph, then you understand why my weekend was unpleasant. You could have filled your time doing more pleasant things. Things that would have made you smile and feel a little better about life. Instead, however, you decided to march a little more of “the 99” with me and I won't forget that. We have come this far already, so what do you say we march even further? Follow me to El Paso.