The details escape Nate Solder somewhat. He definitely remembers the scene of euphoria, however.
Solder has become one of the most decorated former Colorado Buffaloes football players in the NFL, as won a pair of Super Bowls as Tom Brady’s left tackle in New England while appearing in a pair of others. He still recalls with a laugh how one early teammate pointed out that he won as many games in his first season with the Patriots (13) as he did during his three years as the starting left tackle at CU.
In 2018, he signed a lucrative four-year, $64 million free agent contract with the New York Giants but, due to well-publicized recent cancer scares for himself and his young son, Solder opted out of the 2020 due to coronavirus health concerns.
That has left plenty of time for the Colorado native to focus on his family and, when asked by BuffZone, recall the small handful of big wins the Buffs notched during Solder’s time in Boulder. One of them, a wild 34-30 victory against 17th-ranked Kansas at Folsom Field, occurred 11 years ago on Saturday. When Solder, then a junior, remembers the postgame jubilation, he does so with a slight laugh.
First, because it seemed somewhat absurd for a team that improved to 2-4. And also because Solder truly believed, at the time, it was the sort of win that would help the program turn the corner. Instead, the Buffs went 6-12 through the remainder of that season and through Solder’s 2010 senior season.
“I do remember people coming out on the field, and I thought it was a little comical,” Solder said. “I was thinking if we start winning every game, we’re going to have people on the field every game. It’s going to be fun. That day was fun, though.”
With Tyler Hansen taking over at quarterback for Cody Hawkins, the Buffs survived a back-and-forth affair similar to a basketball game in how the teams traded extended runs. CU trailed 3-0 before scoring 24 unanswered points in the second quarter. A KU touchdown with 11 seconds remaining in the first half left the Buffs with a 24-10 lead at the break. The Jayhawks then scored 20 consecutive points in the second half to take a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Buffs took the lead for good on a 13-yard run by Rodney Stewart with 8 minutes, 36 seconds remaining and held on down the stretch, thwarting a KU first-and-goal situation that saw the Jayhawks move the ball to the 1-yard line on second down before surviving a couple of desperation heaves by Kansas in the final seconds.
Hansen’s final numbers weren’t prolific — he went 14-for-25 for 175 yards with a touchdown and one interception, adding 34 yards and a touchdown on the ground — but Solder remembers Hansen making all the key plays at critical situations.
“I remember that was Tyler Hansen’s coming out party,” Solder said. “I felt like we got some momentum going against Kansas and thought, ‘Oh, this is how our team can be.’ It just wasn’t a great time of winning for us then. But I think we had some great wins and I think that Kansas game was one of those for sure.”
In 2014, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and his family received an even more frightening health scare a few years later when his son Hudson, then just an infant, was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. Solder reports everyone’s health at home is doing well, and he is not second-guessing his decision to opt out this season.
“Quite frankly, it’s been excellent. With the whole pandemic, it has given me an opportunity to just rest and put things in perspective,” Solder said. “Just the whole world, we’re so crazy to run, run, run, and go and produce and create and build. I’m just focusing on what’s important with being with my family and my faith and close relationships.”