Nate Solder is known around the NFL as being a role model in the community. From his volunteer efforts to he and his wife Lexi's willingness to share their family's battles, the Solder family is seen for their kindness and perseverance.
On this Mother's Day, Lifestyle chatted with Peri Solder, Nate's mom, to hear about her son as a child, memorable Mother's Day moments and her two grandchildren, Hudson and Charlie Grace.
What was Nate like as a child?
As a baby he was very colicky, so he was horrible (laughs). He was so full of energy. He hated taking naps, and it got to a point when he wasn't even two, you couldn't put him down for a nap. It was worthless. We would just let him run around to the point where you would find him under a table sound asleep. He's always had that energy. He just was better at challenging it and channeling it.
*Nate went to University of Colorado Boulder, about two hours away from where you lived in Buena Vista. It must have been nice to have him close to home. *
When they got into high school, Nate did drama, speech, debate and three sports. Whatever there was to learn, he was ready and so was my older son John. We were the kind of parents that went to every function and we did things together. We all had vacations together. My older son went off to Stanford, and he was really far. It was really sad. We didn't see very many of his games his first year because he was red shirt freshman. When Nate went, because he was so close and he had been the baby in the family, we went up there and went to every game even though he wasn't playing, but the older he got the more he could not care less that we were around (laughs). As long as we brought food, he was a happy camper.
Was the decision to attend University of Colorado Boulder in part to stay close to your family?
Yes and no. Part of it was that he really didn't want to leave Colorado. He really liked the program he was going to study. He liked the coach and the whole thing. Nate always had insight that most people don't have. He came home one time and said, "You know, Mom, I really want to play basketball, but you know, if you go to college and you don't like one out of 15 on the team, it's not a good day. It just isn't a good day. If I go to college and I don't like five out of 100 on the football team, who really cares." Well there's a point. He came to all sorts of realizations. There would be times when he would say something and you'd say, "Where did you learn that from?"
Nate is known around the league as an upstanding community man. What did you try to instill him growing up that would shape like that?
Both he and his brother are the same way. I don't know if we did anything in particular, but we never said anybody was crazy just because they were crazy. We don't know their story. We all have stories. Because both of my kids are real tall, I'm 6'2", so I was aware that kids can be cruel and we always taught them to not be cruel because other people are cruel – that kind of attitude. We volunteered for things and we made the kids volunteer for things and get involved, get to know people. You give back.
What's it mean to you to see him turn into the man he's become?
I'm just so proud of him, and we've always been proud of what he's done in the community and his life more than let's say his grades or more than the job he had. Just the fact that he's just such an outstanding person. Somebody said, "Well aren't you proud of him as an NFL player?" I'm not "unproud" of him as an NFL player, but to me, the heart that he's given to the things that he's done is so much more important.
Nate was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014, and his son Hudson was diagnosed with Wilms tumor in his kidneys in 2015. Your family hasn't been dealt easiest of cards, but they've been vocal about sharing their story. What does it mean to you to see Nate and Lexi use something so difficult to help others?
I think that's just so wonderful. I think it takes a little bit of the pain away from yourself because you're not centered on, "Oh, poor me. Why did it happen to me?" attitude. It's made it a bit easier for them to even accept these things. We have a great story about this. The diagnosis came out publicly a year after he had it. We ran a bed and breakfast in Colorado, and we had a client who had a teenager who knew Nate. This kid goes into the gym, and his friend is there and he's big into weightlifting. His friend wasn't feeling right, and he said, "Dude you need to go to the doctor." His friend said, "Well, I'm an athlete. I don't need to go to the doctor," and he told him Nate's story. This kid says, "Really?" Then he sees it on the news. He goes and gets a checkup, and they find he had the same exact thing Nate had. He's in the hospital, out, done and he's fine. I called Nate up when I heard this story and I said, "Nate, you actually influenced a young man in Oklahoma. He doesn't know you and he caught that because of you." That's what it's all about dude. That's what it's all about. That's what impresses me – that kind of story. Those are the things I'm so proud of both my boys for. They've both done an outstanding job that way.
What's it been like seeing Nate and his wife Lexi as parents?
It's been really interesting because before Hudson was even diagnosed, I would say Lexi and Nate were the most neurotic first time parents I'd ever met (laughs) It was always, "Mom, did you get this? Mom, did you do that?" Finally I said, "I don't know how you grew up because I couldn't do anything right." As Hudson got through this and things got better, it seemed like life got better. Before Charlie Grace was born, Hudson just had a cold, and Nate was the one who got to stay up all night with him. He calls me up and says, "Mom, I don't know how you did it. I honestly don't know how you did it." It was a real "tada" moment of realization.
You've seen your son play in three Super Bowls, winning two of them. Is this something you ever fathomed for Nate?
Because my kids were really tall, we used to joke when they were little that they would play in the NBA, but that was just a joke. I never really thought my kids were really going to go into sports at all. When my older son, who led the way in football and scholarships, actually got his first team looking at him, I was like really? Seriously? We're talking scholarship? I think both of my kids had an attitude that sports were just a way of getting them through school. They enjoyed them, but it wasn't, "I want to be an NBA or NFL player."
What did Nate want to do before the NFL became a possibility?
For quite a while he wanted to be a large animal vet, and he still talks about it. He also wanted to be a forest ranger. Both my kids have degrees in science, and they both have been environmentally savvy. Nate more than John in school, believe it or not, was really savvy about food and what to eat and what not to eat. Nate decided to give up sugar in seventh grade. It was a ploy to get his dad to lose weight, but he thought it'd be fun. He became totally absorbed with that.
Is this something he still does?
He's lessened up in the last few years, but you rarely see him eat a cookie, cake, you might see him eat honey, occasionally jelly. He watches what are in labels.
Any memorable mother's day moments they pulled off?"
I have a book that Nate wrote when he was in high school, and it's the funniest book. What he did was he went through all the family pictures and found family pictures he wanted to write the story about. So we had animals at the time, and he said, "The gang's all here," and the picture was all our animals. It would go on like that. I actually typed it up and put the pictures to the story and had it bound. On that note, one of my favorite Christmas presents that we did was when they were in college and they didn't have any money and neither did we because they were in college. We decided for Christmas instead of everybody going through the stress of going shopping, we sat down and wrote we loved each other I actually have all those pictures and letters saved. It was pretty special. When people tell me we can't afford this or that for Christmas, I think of that and say, "You're missing the whole point."
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.