Above and Beyond with Nate Boyer, Professional Athlete and American Hero
Corporate Wellness Magazine
In 2004, Nate Boyer saw the devastating photos from Darfur on the cover of Time Magazine. It was then that his journey began to make a difference. In the years to follow, Boyer bought a plane ticket to Africa and volunteered at a refugee camp in the Darfur region, became a Green Beret, served in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the Special Forces Group and walked onto the field as a Texas Longhorn.
Boyer did not achieve his goals by pure luck; his unwavering ambition has been his guiding light and has led him to follow the path of believing that anything is possible.
At the upcoming World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Nate Boyer will share with more than 2,000 attendees his story of how he has let nothing stop him from getting where he wants to go—physically and mentally.
Medical Tourism Magazine: The title of your presentation at the upcoming World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress is “Anything is Possible.” Why do you hold such strong beliefs in that motto?
Nate Boyer: It’s more of a mentality; I am less interested in what I’ve done and more interested in what I think I can’t do. It’s ridiculous to set limitations on ourselves. People tell you things and you read into it, like “I’m not smart enough or young enough” and you start to believe it.
You can be the greatest at anything if you understand what it takes and what you have to sacrifice to make that dream come true. I am a glass half empty kind of person, you can let that empty space consume you and make you feel like you do not have enough in your life, or you can work toward filling up that empty space with anything. I like when someone tells me that I can’t do something it motivates me more to get it done.
MTM: Why are you a glass half empty kind of guy?
NB: Because there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. We have so much here in the U.S., I have all the essentials and I didn’t do anything to earn it, I was just born here. Darfur was the first place of conflict that I went to and that really shifted my way of thinking. I don’t pretend that everything is OK.
MTM: How do you motivate people to make changes for the better for themselves?
NB: I motivate them by my own actions. You have to let your actions represent what you stand for, and you need to be willing to share that. You can’t stand up and preach if you are not living it.
MTM: Which part of your career fulfilled your desire to make a difference in the world the most?
NB: My service in the military, because on the deployments, whether right or wrong politically, at end of the day we were fighting for those that couldn’t fight for themselves. And we were also protecting each other and the Iraqi and Afghan soldiers that we trained and fought along side, they became our brothers too. It was always about something bigger than me, it was always about the man next to me.
MTM: Tell us about your experience at the refugee camp in Sudan.
NB: I was there for a couple months, I went on my own, I tried to go with an NGO in 2004, but they wouldn’t take me because I didn’t have a college degree. I told them that I would do anything mundane, even dig ditches or wells, I just wanted to help.
I ended up getting a visa and plane ticket on my own, flew over there and talked my way onto a UN flight and started volunteering at the camps.
I was surrounded by people who had nothing and that had suffered a lot and they were still so generous with me by inviting me to their village to have a meal with their family. My last week there I stayed with a family in capital of Chad, near Sudan, and they were amazingly hospitable they didn’t understand why I thought I owed them something, it was just their way of life.
MTM: What one person in Sudan made a lasting impact on you and why?
NB: A lot of people. But there was a young boy in particular, he was probably, 5–years- old, he didn’t speak English,and I didn’t speak his language, but it didn’t matter, we communicated through smiles; I can picture his face like it was yesterday.
He had a bad leg, but every day he would come out and play soccer with us, he was always in good spirits. He was slower than all the kids and he was never featured in any of the games but he didn’t care, he was just happy to play, to be alive and to get his one small meal a day.
It was heart breaking, but at the same time it was very uplifting.
MTM: After your volunteer efforts in Sudan, you joined the army and went through training as a Green Beret. Why did you decide that you wanted to become a Green Beret?
NB: The motto for the Green Berets is “to free the oppressed,” when I heard that and found out what the Special Forces actually does, that it is a humanitarian mission along with being an unconventional warfare mission, I was inspired to be a part of that. And the foreign internal defense was appealing to me because it wasn’t about fighting for our freedom or serving our country, it was about serving the people that needed help.
MTM: I understand that only 11 out of 157 people became Green Berets. How did you do it?
NB: Not quitting, understanding that it is going to be a process and every day is going to be worse than the day before. In every moment that I had the chance to quit or stay, I didn’t have to do anything extraordinary, I just had to stay and show up every morning at the right time, at the right place and in the right uniform and you know, take it like a champ… that’s really the winning formula. It was also about knowing that there are bigger things at stake and that people are relying on you.
MTM: What was the most challenging part of the training?
NB: SERE School, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. There are different levels of SERE School and the one in Special Forces is the highest level.
During SERE School you go through a few weeks of survival training and then you spend a few weeks in a mock POW camp, they make it as real as they possibly can.
While in the camp, you start to doubt yourself, you doubt the people next to you, you don’t sleep, don’t eat, you are pushed to the brink. But when you are “rescued” and they raise the American flag, everyone breaks down and cries and at that point you realize it was the greatest and the worst training that you will ever get.
MTM: Ok, moving on to having played football before you were given the opportunity to play for the Texas Longhorns, how did that happen?
NB: I just tried out. I was in good shape just having left active duty. When I decided that I wanted to make the team I started working out in a different way, practicing drills and when it was time to try out I just went harder than everyone else on everything. I wasn’t the faster or biggest, but I had more will and was more relentless than everyone else. Some of the other guys resented that until they learned where I had come from and the training that I had previously endured.
I eventually started long snapping so I could get on the field because I was on the scout team as safety, so when I started practicing it seemed that I had a knack for it. I won the job and had a starting position my last three years at Texas as a long snapper, which lead me to an opportunity with the Seahawks.
MTM: What is going on in your football career right now?
NB: I’m still training, hoping to get one more shot this season, but it’s not likely. I had the opportunity with the Seahawks last year, I was already the oldest rookie in NFL history. Now I’m 35, that is usually way beyond the end of an NFL player’s career. I’m still snapping and I’m going to keep working out to hopefully get another opportunity, but if it doesn’t happen, I did everything that I possibly could and I have gotten much farther than I ever thought I would.
MTM: If you could be anywhere in 10 years where would you be?
NB: Everywhere… is the answer. I want to be part of so many things at the highest level.
I would love to be in the film industry. Making my own content for films or documentaries, featuring real people in real situations and to have that piece of content inspire people to do something about it.
MTM: After everything that you have accomplished and having an out of this world ambition, many people look to you as a hero. Who is your hero?
NB: My biggest hero is Brad Keys, he was on my team in the Special Forces and has since passed away. He lives on in me and in many others.
MTM: Knowing what you know now, what would you go back and do differently?
NB: Well…nothing. I am exactly where I need to be and I like where I am at right now. If I hadn’t made all those mistakes and gone down those roads I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t want to change a thing, and you can’t anyway.
MTM: Would you travel outside of the U.S. for health care?
NB: I would go outside of the U.S. for a procedure. I would go to the place that is the best at the procedure, whether that is in the U.S. or abroad.
MTM: What is your favorite vacation destination?
NB: I don’t really like vacations. But I would like to go somewhere where I could make a difference in a developing world.
I did take a trip five years ago through Central America, backpacking and hitchhiking, it was great. I like just being out on the road with no plan. Going to relax at a resort somewhere is just not really appealing to me.
MTM: What do you do to stay physically and mentally fit?
NB: I work out everyday. It is so important to keep your mind and soul healthy.
MTM: If there was one piece of advice about health and wellness you could leave with our readers, what would it be?
NB: Challenging yourself, trying to do things you think you can’t do whether that is through exercise or eating very healthy. Being willing to sacrifice something challenges you to open yourself up to living a much healthier life.
Another of Boyer’s most recent challenges was joining the Waterboys Initiatives the first “Waterboys Champion,” a signature program of The Chris Long Foundation. As a “Waterboys Champion,” Boyer launched Conquering Kili, this project was dedicated to veterans after combat and to build clean water wells in Africa. Boyer joined wounded combat veteran Blake Watson in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro back in February. They were able to raise enough money to build two water wells in Tanzania.
The next goal for Conquering Kili is to send a group of combat veterans and NFL alumni on the climb and to raise enough money to fund another well. Boyer said his ultimate goal for this project is to raise $1 million. You can help to support Boyer’s efforts by visiting the website here: http://www.waterboys.org/kili