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 1-1 record. The UTSA offense is averaging 28 points, 449 total yards (146 rush/303 pass) and 26.5 first downs per outing this season and the 6-foot, 280-pounder has a team-leading 11 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 24 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 third entry of the fall.
Week 3: Mixed Emotions
As I sit here, I'm trying to comprehend the emotions I feel. I'll just sit and type them out on this blank document and maybe make this empty page make sense. I'm not used to empty pages, emotionally. I'm not used to trying to make sense of what I feel. I am a steadfast person and my emotions usually are cut and dry. Not today. As you read this entry, imagine each word as I type it. Imagine me sitting in my frigid dorm room, lights off, oversized pajama pants on, ESPN mumbling in the background, pondering. Imagine tight muscles, sore fingers, fresh cuts and disappointment. The idea of this blog is to allow you to wear my skin. See what I see. Feel what I feel. I don't always wish that upon you, but bear with me, because there is a lot to see and a lot of emotions to feel.
Quite simply, we lost. There is no other way to put it. What's worse is that we lost at home in front of Roadrunners Nation. Thank you for showing up, being loud, boisterous and faithful. We need you. I don't want to sound desperate, but fans, we absolutely need you. I have heard many people throughout my life say that football players are the most insecure of them all. I don't personally believe this to be anywhere in the ballpark of truth, but in the case of absolutely wanting and needing our fans, I guess that applies. Let me explain, or better yet, let you feel what I feel.
The walk from the locker room to the tunnel goes by so quickly, it's like it never even happens. Five minutes remain. Almost as if the snap of our chinstrap teleports us to where we need to be, kind of like the snap of fingers or the wiggle of a nose. We wait, not able to take the field yet. Four minutes remain. At this point, I can't feel my feet touching the ground. My blood effortlessly flows throughout my body and my senses are heightened. I sway back and forth, bumping shoulder pads with those brothers who line up beside me. Three minutes remain. I look out at the crowd. They are on their feet. They are screaming and waving and clapping. I look up. The Texas flag is flying. Fans are filming us with their camera phones, wanting acknowledgment. Metallica blasts from the speakers. One minute remains. The smoke starts to billow. The crowd roars with every firework that flares. The sound waves are going through me, rattling my helmet. Thirty seconds remain. I can't feel my hands. Ten seconds remain. I can't feel anything. LET US TAKE THE FIELD. Time's up.
I have goose bumps, now. Most of you do, too. This entry will be easier to write than I thought. I love football. I love the game and everything that comes along with the power of the jersey, but there are some things that I disagree with. Many athletes on my team, our team, were overlooked by schools such as the one we played yesterday. Not big enough, not fast enough … just downright not "deserving" enough. That's false. My teammates can say whatever they like, but we did feel overlooked at some point in time along the recruiting process. I know that you are sitting there, wherever you are, reading this thinking that I am just some undersized guy with a chip on my shoulder. I know it sounds that way, and although I may play the game "with a chip on my shoulder," it's just not the case.
There are thousands of athletes who would love to be sitting where I am sitting right now. In a beautiful dorm complex, in a beautiful city, in the best state known to man. They would love to be writing a blog read by many. They would love to play in front of 40,000 people every Saturday and they would love to be able to say they play Division I football, but I guarantee that they would not love to say they lost yesterday. I know that I don't love it. Are there "moral victories" to be had from yesterday's game? Yes. Do they show up in the win column? And now maybe you start to feel what I feel.
When the ball is snapped, the game is played. Played by men who breathe the same air, eat the same food and love the same sport. It doesn't matter how much budget a university has or what kind of uniforms they wear. It doesn't matter what the measuring tape says or how much the barbell bends. Football is football. One hundred yards and a pigskin and the game is played to be won. When the game is not won, then the mission has failed. UTSA Football plays to win and yesterday was no different. I saw my brotherhood fighting and clawing for every inch and every tackle. We played the game the way it is supposed to be played. With emotion and without relent. It just so happens that we were the team that came up short. We didn't complete the mission, but we proved that we are a force to be reckoned with. And for that, I couldn't be prouder.
"The 99" is not always pretty and it's not always graceful. It's not always glorious and it's not always triumphant. It may bend. It may buckle. But it never breaks. It is meant to be marched by a brotherhood of equals. Of men who fight for each other and put their well-being on the line for each other. Of men who want something better for their brothers than they do for himself. And for each other, they go the 99. My shoes are still knotted and I am still marching. Are you?