Bill Little commentary: 'S' has more than one meaning
Aug. 30, 2012
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
The players and the coaches have had a well-publicized difference of opinion on what the letter "S" in the team theme of RISE should represent. The players, wishing to return to prominence on the national college football landscape, wanted it to stand for "swagger." The coaches said you have to earn the right to swagger, and it more fittingly should stand for "sacrifice."
Both fit, but perhaps another choice could be "solidarity."
Webster tells us that solidarity means a union rising from common responsibilities and interests, or a community of feelings and purposes.
So let's take these one at a time.
When the Longhorns convened for their first team meeting this week, the coaches and staff announced to the team that two junior walk-on players had been awarded one year scholarships. Under NCAA rules, universities are allowed to maintain in a single year no more than 85 scholarship players. Traditionally, when through attrition Texas has been under that ceiling, the coaches and staff have at times deemed particularly deserving walk-on players eligible for a one-year scholarship.
And Sunday night, they dipped right into their theme of sacrifice to grant full scholarship to two players whose backgrounds are as different and diverse as one could ever imagine -- holder/receiver Cade McCrary and deep snapper Nate Boyer.
That night, even through their humility, both had every right to walk proudly with a little swagger.
Cade McCrary was a little boy in the first grade when his dad joined the coaching staff of Mack Brown at Texas in 1998. He grew up dreaming of being a Longhorn, and even after his dad, Hardee, left the staff and moved over to the Longhorn Foundation, that dream never wavered. In high school, he was a leading receiver and one of the top players during Lake Travis' run of state championship success over the past five years.
When it came time to attend college, he had several offers at other places, but made it clear to his folks that he wanted to be a Longhorn. So three seasons ago, he made the team as a walk-on wide receiver. He also had a special skill that would turn out to serve the team well - he was a holder for extra points and field goals. When the Horns were looking for a holder two years ago after Jordan Shipley left, Cade McCrary stepped up and won the job.
The tradition of, "Justin Tucker....out of the hold of Cade McCrary" became a common announcement for the Longhorn kicking game. In fact, as Justin was lining up for the winning field goal in College Station last Thanksgiving against Texas A&M, all I could think about was, "Tucker, out of the hold of McCrary." The rest, of course, is history. You never hear much about a deep snapper or a holder unless they screw something up, and in one of the grandest moments in Texas Longhorn football history, Cade McCrary became a hugely important footnote to legend.
Nate Boyer's story may be the most unusual of any Longhorn ever.
In a way, it is fitting that Nate Boyer was once an aspiring actor in Los Angeles, because the story of his life seems destined for a novel or a movie. An honor student who is the 2012 winner of the Greater Austin Chapter of the National Football Foundation's Distinguished Young American Award, Nate has packed a remarkable odyssey into thirty or so years of living.
Boyer, has (in no particular order) found employment on a fishing boat in San Diego, sought work as a young actor in Hollywood, worked with autistic children in L.A. and refugees in Darfur in Africa, and joined the U.S. Army following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
A graduate of Valley Christian High School in Dublin, Calif., Boyer not only joined the Army, he was admitted into the elite Special Forces Unit of the Green Berets, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He served six years in the Middle East, earning a Bronze Star -- the nation's fourth highest combat medal -- for his service in Iraq.
When he finished his second tour of duty in 2009, Boyer decided to use funds from the G.I. Bill to get a college education. At that point, he had never seen Austin, Texas. He was born in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and had lived in California, Colorado, North Carolina, Okinawa, Japan, Africa, Israel and had been in various countries in the Middle East. All he knew about The University of Texas came from his comrades in the far reaches of the world who had become Longhorn fans by watching games on TV.
Their loyalty to the Longhorns interested him, so he applied to Texas and was accepted. He had been a good athlete in high school, but Valley Christian did not have football. But that didn't stop Nate. He figured as long as he was at Texas, he should try to make the nationally ranked Longhorn football team. He studied all he could about the game, tried out as a "walk-on," and made the team as a defensive back and special teams player.
After being honored with members of the Stadium Veterans Committee at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Veterans Recognition Day as a freshman, Boyer was recruited in the spring of 2011 to resume his military career as a Special Forces member of the Texas National Guard. While other Longhorns seek summer employment around Austin, Nate's "summer job" is serving his country on various missions abroad. At Texas, he is a member of the Athletics Director's Honor Roll as a 4.0 student and a Provost Award semi-finalist studying physical culture and sports.
The respect the Longhorn coaches and staff have for McCrary and Boyer was mirrored by the team members, who gave rousing standing ovations to both as they were announced as recipients of the scholarships. There, standing side-by-side, were two young men who came from widely different backgrounds, yet they had arrived at a very special place in the life of the 2012 Longhorns football team.
As their teammates cheered and each struggled for the right words, the moment was not lost that Hardee McCrary had dreamed of his son one day playing on scholarship at The University of Texas. And Nate Boyer could now save his G.I. Bill funds and apply them to graduate school.
That's why "s" has so many meanings. Both young men sacrificed to be here, both are confident enough in themselves to embody all the positive things in swagger (as opposed to conceit or arrogance).
And most of all, they, and their teammates reinforced the meaning of solidarity -- a togetherness that represents all that is right in the word "team."