In his words: Nate Leonard
SAN ANTONIO — Junior center Nate Leonard wraps up his weekly blog that gave fans an inside glimpse into UTSA's first season as a member of Conference USA today.
Leonard, the only player in school history to start all 34 games, helped the Roadrunners win a program-record-tying five consecuitve games to close out the 2013 campaign and they finished with a 7-5 overall record, including a 6-2 mark in conference play.
The offense averaged 25.6 points, 417.8 total yards (175.4 rush/242.4 pass), 21.9 first downs and 32:24 possession time per contest and the 6-foot, 280-pounder led the offensive line with 70 knockdown blocks, including a season-high 10 against Rice (Oct. 12), in addition to grading out at 82 percent.
A leader on and off the field, the McKinney native maintains a 3.99 GPA in physical education and he was tabbed a second-team Capital One Academic All-American on Thursday.
Week #14: The Final Bow
It's hard to believe that another season has passed. The final laundry clip has been turned in and the lockers have been cleaned, not to a mother's standard but close enough. The last team meeting brought with it a heavy feeling. A feeling of knowing that a valiant group of seniors that led us to success this year were taking their final bow.
It hurt me to see them go. It hurt me more than any blow to the head or any shot to the ribs. Those seniors were our backbone. They gave us energy and they gave us fuel as if we had nothing to fight for other than to send them out on top. We fought, put our bodies on the line for them and held nothing back.
I didn't want to share this during the season because I didn't want the intel to fall into the wrong hands, but I was hurting starting about midseason. Of course, I understand that no one is feeling good if they are playing any significant number of snaps at the Division I level, but let me elaborate upon the pain that I was feeling. Let me just say that every time I got hit just right, it felt like an angry rancher was branding me with a blazing hot iron to the side of my neck and just holding it in place with a horrific grin of sadistic gratitude on his face. However, no pain would be worse than the pain of regret I would have experienced had I not laid it all out on the line for my brothers. Without a doubt, in order for me to leave the field, I would have to be carried off and, at that point, people should truly start worrying about my well-being. Unfortunately, I have had some time to rest, which is just what the doctor ordered.
I also have had some time to reflect, so please let me share my reflections.
Traveling to Albuquerque, N.M., was awesome. I love the architecture in New Mexico and the dry air. It is quite nice to experience some dry summer air after going through an entire fall camp in humid San Antonio. Winning was an added bonus and, after doing so, we proved most of the professional sports analysts wrong, the ones that predicted us to go 0-12.
Oklahoma State was a game that I had been looking forward to my entire career. It was such a great experience to play against a team that wanted nothing to do with us out of high school and to put up 35 points on them. When I say 35 points, let me remind you that 35 points is more than Baylor, Mississippi State and Texas scored on the Cowboys … COMBINED. Three more schools of which wanted nothing to do with us out of high school either, mind you. Need I say more?
Arizona was a game in which we just downright got outplayed. Hats off to the Wildcats and their program because they clearly have something good going on in the desert.
UTEP was our first Conference USA game and the Sun Bowl was my favorite place to play outside the realm of the Alamodome. It is such a beautiful stadium tucked into the side of a mountain with an electric atmosphere because the crowd noise gets caught between the rocks. Not to mention how unique it is to drive to a stadium with one side of the highway being the United States and the other side being Mexico. It was also my favorite place to play because the convincing win in El Paso started turning heads, not that we needed them to turn.
The score of the Houston game was misleading. We welcomed the American Athletic Conference foe into our house and played with them for three solid quarters, but we all know that it takes a four-quarter performance to win a ballgame. With five turnovers in the final 15 minutes, that loss was a hard pill to swallow.
I wrote about how great the Marshall fans were in Huntington, W.Va. If everyone loved their football as much as Marshall fans love theirs, then there wouldn't be much love for anything else other that football in this great country. Marshall is a good team, but I would have really enjoyed another shot at them.
The Rice game was just like any other loss. What if we would have done this? Or made this play? Or caught this pass? Or made this block? The loss to the Owls was very frustrating, but it will be fun to play them next year.
The UAB game was a fun one for the offense because that was the game that our offense really started clicking on all cylinders. That is also the game that, the night before, we had the most incredible offensive meeting that I have ever been a part of. I really wish y'all could have been there and experienced what everyone in that room experienced. What happened in that room will forever stay there. It is righteous that way.
The Tulsa game was the biggest surprise of the season for me. I had this notion that Tulsa would be one of the best teams that we played due to the fact that they were defending C-USA Champions. Don't get me wrong, they were good, but for us to go into Tulsa and shoo away the Golden Hurricane like we did really earned us some credit in the football world.
Going into the Tulane game, I felt like the outcome would define our season. With a win, I felt like we would have everything in the world to play for, but with a loss, I was afraid that it was going to break our backs. You would have thought that LSU was coming into the Alamodome to play us by the way the media exalted Tulane, but the game is played on the field and we showed that with an ugly, yet beautiful 10-7 win against the Green Wave.
Ahh, North Texas is such a great game to reflect upon. You want to talk about a team that thought they had an easy win in the bag? The Mean Green was looking so nice when we boarded that plane leaving Denton with a "W." Sometimes it's just plain old fun to ruin someone's party.
Some would say that Louisiana Tech was a revenge game referring to the way they so gently scored a couple extra touchdowns as the clock wound down in Ruston last year with an already comfortable lead. I didn't see it as such. For one thing, if we didn't want them to run up the score on us, then we should have stopped them. Secondly, this time, the game wasn't about getting even, it was about letting our seniors take their final bow. Bow they did.
I never will forget the last play that Eric called. Victory. How fitting of a last play for Eric and the seniors on offense. Victory is what they earned here at UTSA. Victory is what they built. Victory forever will be their legacy.
I broke the huddle, clapped my hands, shed a tear and yelled as loud as my feeble voice could yell. I didn't want that to be the last play Eric called. Everyone knew that Eric was our leader and the face of UTSA Football.
It also meant that I would now be a senior. I don't expect y'all to understand, but that scares the you-know-what out of me. I don't want to say goodbye to this team and this university. I don't want to break my last huddle and snap my last pigskin. Quite honestly, I don't want to relinquish the power of the jersey.
For those of you who marched “The 99” with me this season, I would like to say thank you. Your support does not go unnoticed. It drives a washed-up, old center and writer like me to give more than I thought was ever possible. The march is not over and it is forever ongoing. No matter what you do, where you go or how high you fly, never neglect the march. Never neglect the process because the process is what you remember when you get to wherever you're going.
This isn't a good-bye but rather a see you later. Until then, keep your head down and feet moving and, from time to time, look up and cherish being you.