NEW YORK — With his new movie, former Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer tackles real-world issues affecting many members of both communities.
The ex-Seattle Seahawk directed and stars in “MVP” with the mission of showing there’s hope for military veterans and former athletes who struggle with mental health and finding purpose in society after retiring from their “glory days.”
“I hope it really helps us spread this narrative that you’re never alone, and you’re not broken just because you’ve gone through some tough stuff,” Boyer told the New York Daily News.
“Yeah, survivor’s guilt absolutely exists, but so does survivor’s responsibility. We have a lot of work to do. It’s up to us to live out those American Dreams of the men and women who didn’t come back from overseas, and we need to do that in an honorable way. And also, from the athlete’s side, bucking this narrative that they’re all just rich crybabies and they don’t know what it’s really like in the world.”
Premiering Wednesday in 35 cities, including all of the NFL markets, “MVP” stars Boyer as a former Marine and Mo McCrae as a newly retired NFL star who form an unlikely bond through their shared experience of feeling lost after leaving the only jobs they know.
The film draws inspiration from Boyer’s real-life nonprofit organization, Merging Vets & Players (MVP), which he created with Fox Sports analyst Jay Glazer in 2015 to connect ex-military members and professional athletes facing challenges with their transitions.
Boyer, 41, served multiple tours with the U.S. Army before playing college football with the Texas Longhorns as a long snapper. He had a short stint with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“When that ended, I came back to L.A. and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Boyer said. “Was I going to go back in the military? I just felt kind of lost, and Jay approached me with this idea. He said, ‘Hey, I want to start an organization that brings vets and athletes together.’
“I’d be on the phone talking to a buddy of mine from Special Forces, and he’d be talking to a former player on the phone, and they’d both be struggling, lost, asking us for advice, ‘What do we do next?’ The biggest thing they were missing was the locker room.”
Their MVP organization started in Los Angeles, with Glazer opening his Unbreakable Performance gym to athletes and veterans once a week to train together and talk through their common issues. It’s since expanded to include eight U.S. chapters, including New York City.
Boyer had appeared in multiple film and TV roles, typically playing a military member or football player, but didn’t have much experience behind the camera before making his directorial debut with “MVP.”
He says every military character in the movie is played by a veteran, and that the experiences detailed in the script are based on real stories.
“Most of that stuff was said on the mat during an MVP session,” Boyer said. “They wrote the story. They dictated and we wrote it down, and obviously made it into a cohesive script, but those are all real stories, real people.”
The film is executive produced by Sylvester Stallone and features appearances by former NFL stars including Michael Strahan, Tony Gonzalez and Howie Long.
Boyer has frequently served as a conduit between the NFL and military worlds, including advising Colin Kaepernick that kneeling during the National Anthem in his social justice protests before games would be more respectful than sitting.
He hopes “MVP” helps viewers understand athletes and veterans better.
“I just want people to relate a little bit with someone they may feel they have nothing in common with,” Boyer said. “That can be a viewer thinking about what they’re seeing on screen, a combat vet, a former professional athlete. Do I understand these people? Do I have some misconceptions about who they are?
“Outside of the movie, in the world, can you sit across from somebody, have a conversation, be respectful, and then maybe grow together and help one another, even if you have very little in common or believe very different things? I think it’s possible.”
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