Former Giant Cheers Team from Afghanistan
February 4, 2008
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Feb. 4, 2008) - As millions of Americans gathered around their televisions with pizza, hot wings and beer to watch the Super Bowl, servicemembers on the other side of the world were rolling out of beds, cots or sleeping bags to watch the big game as it started in the early morning hours.
Among the Soldiers able to watch the game at Bagram Airfield was a former New York Giants player, Lt. Col. Nate Rivers.
"I am pulling for my Giants," Rivers said, prior to the match-up between New York and the until-then undefeated New England Patriots.
The 52-year-old former running back is now the Combined Joint Task Force-82 logistics maintenance chief.
"I will probably be the most emotional guy in [the logistics section]," he said.
Rivers, who is a resident of Anchorage, Ala., began his NFL career when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1979 after a successful college career at South Carolina State University as a quarterback. He was traded to the Giants shortly after.
Rivers said he was with the Giants for two years before being traded again to the Baltimore Colts where he ended his career in 1981 as a wide receiver.
"I knew I need to move on," he said after spending time on the injured reserve. Rivers explained he saw players trying hold on to the sport after their time was over. "I just decided I wasn't going to do that."
Rivers said he thinks it was less than a week later he was standing with his right hand raised at an Army recruiters' office.
"I told the recruiter I wanted the hardest thing out there," Rivers recalled. Shortly thereafter, he found himself at Fort Benning, Ga., training to be an infantryman.
"The Army provided me the opportunity to be on the 'first team' ... 26-years-later, that is why I am still on the 'first team,'" the still formidable-looking lieutenant colonel said.
"The Army offered me a better deal," he added.
Rivers' still has good memories about his days as a professional football player.
"I was there for Lawrence Taylor's rookie year," he said.
With pride, he went on to say, "I don't think too many people can say they knocked him on his back and stood over him and said 'get up rook.'"
Even though Nate Rivers never became a household name, Rivers is still proud of his accomplishment.
"Reporting to camp is a feat in itself," he said.
He went on to add, "success comes with what you desire to be."
Playing pro ball and becoming an officer in the Army are two accomplishments many people would be proud of. But they are not the icing on Rivers' cake.
"The most important [accomplishment] in my mind is when I got my college degree," he said.
Even as Rivers prepared to watch the game Sunday, he didn't begrudge his location. "This is a Super Bowl here too," he said. "There is a winner and loser and God forbid we come out on the losing end in the war on terror."
(Sgt. Jim Wilt serves with the CJTF-82 Public Affairs Office.)