How ‘MVP’ spotlights the connections between military vets and retired athletes

Two men in "MVP."
Mo McRae, left, and Nate Boyer in “MVP.”
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Nate Boyer and Jay Glazer have developed the type of relationship where one friend can come home to the surprise of having the other directing a full-blown movie production in their house without their knowledge.

“I walk into my house one day... He basically broke into my house and started filming. It was basically transformed. There was a whole bunch of people in there,’” said Glazer. “It was not like a little thing, [it was] an entire movie set.”

The Fox Sports National Football League reporter-analyst-insider had approved the shoot, but he was just not exactly sure when it would be happening. The location is key for the film, titled “MVP,” because it’s where Glazer and Boyer began to form the idea for the unique outreach program of the same name.


“Beyond him unwillingly opening his home — he did say we could do it — you see Unbreakable Performance Center, Jay’s gym, in the movie,” says Boyer, a former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk who was also in the spotlight for his friendship with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It was Boyer who advised him to kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.

“The reason we filmed [at the gym] — partially because Jay is generous and let us film there — but also because that’s where MVP became MVP.”

The fact that it was Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers only made the situation worse.

Sept. 17, 2018

MVP in this case refers to Merging Vets & Players, an organization that unites military veterans and former athletes to not only train at the gym but also to talk about shared mentalities, experiences and troubles that could result from assimilating back into — as Glazer puts it — “a less chaotic” life.

MVP was founded in 2015 by Glazer and Boyer, and the film “MVP,” directed by and starring Boyer, hopes to bring attention to the struggles both groups face and the outreach presented by the organization.

“MVP” the film is inspired by actual events, is executive produced by Sylvester Stallone and co-stars Glazer, Mo McRae, Talia Jackson, Christina Ochoa and Dina Shihabi. It tells the story of a retiring athlete (McRae) having a hard time with his new nonathletic lifestyle who stumbles into a homeless former soldier (Boyer) with post-traumatic stress disorder. They bond over shared mentalities and decide to bring their worlds together.

In addition to screening tonight in 35 premiere markets, the GNC Live Well Foundation will sponsor a film screening benefit tour featuring Boyer along with local veterans and athletes to take place throughout the 2022-23 NFL season. Despite the popularity of streaming platforms, which are a possibility in the future, Boyer pushed to have the film released theatrically because “it just hits different” when you watch it in a shared space.


We caught up with Boyer and a very busy Glazer (it was the first week of the NFL season) ahead of the picture’s release to chat about the people the film portrays, the filmmaking experience for the movie-making novices and the real purpose of the movie.

How was the filmmaking process for you both?

Jay Glazer: That’s a Nate question.

Nate Boyer: I don’t know what I’m doing. If you have good people around you that you trust, and you build a badass team, then people will figure it out. That’s how this thing happened. It was super collaborative. We had no money, but it doesn’t look and feel like it, because everybody just bought in because of the mission of MVP. They know what it does and who it speaks to and who it helps, so that was the biggest part of it.

I studied it as much as I could, and I’ve produced some things. Our [cinematographer], Logan Fulton, was the only department head that wasn’t a veteran. He’s incredible, and he’s the one who recognized that. Everybody else were veterans [or former athletes].

I think a lot of times things get more complicated than they should be ... When you have a good story and people who care, you’ll figure it out. The mission and the content and the people will speak louder than anything you can write on paper, anyway. That’s how it happened.


Jay, did you give Nate any tips about being in front of the camera?

Glazer: I’m the worst guy to ask about acting tips. I did five seasons on “Ballers,” and I didn’t follow a single script.

Boyer: But you’re in every season, bro. They wouldn’t have called you for Season 2.

Glazer: I did a scene in “Bones” and I played an Army vet. I came in and didn’t know a single one of my lines. Just went off the cuff. It was Week 1 of the NFL season. I didn’t have time to read a script. Anyway. Nate’s a real actor. I usually play myself. Did that quite well.

Boyer: He’s given me a ton of tips and advice. Honestly, just watching him is how I get coached with being on camera. Especially with any kind of hosting stuff, and his confidence ... Trying to get out a lot of information in a short period of time is a freaking skill and he does it better than anybody.

Your co-star Mo McRae also helped produce.

Boyer: Mo McRae. This guy has been so close on so many big things. He deserves every accolade he gets, and I hope this leads to bigger and better things. Not only is he talented, but he’s very hard-working and he cares. He showed up every day on set, even if he wasn’t working. I could not have done it without Mo. No doubt.


There are some big names in the film and around it. How did they come to be involved?

Glazer: Wiz Khalifa trains at Unbreakable with me. All these other celebs that fight — Wiz can fight. Anyway, he did a song for us. I mean, of course he did, cause he’s part of the family.

Boyer: He has military in his family and has been supporting MVP since the beginning. He saw us filming some stuff around and said, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” I said, “Well, you can give me a song.” And he said, “I got you.” ... He delivered it on Veterans Day [very shortly after].

Glazer: Like, a day later.

Boyer: As far as reaching some of the [people supporting the movie], those are all close friends of Jay. Randy Couture, Tony Gonzalez, Jarrod Bunch. Obviously, [Michael] Strahan and Howie [Long]. When Jay and Tony and Randy are telling these stories [onscreen in the movie], those are their stories — it’s not scripted.

Glazer: Oh, yeah. I forgot some of that.

How does the film tie in to the purpose of MVP, the organization?

Glazer: The point of the movie is really to get eyes on the mission for MVP and to get outreach and to let people know that it’s OK to be vulnerable together. You get a bunch of badasses together in a room, it’s OK to open up and lean into each other. It’s not about me. It’s not about Nate. More than anything, this movie ... The whole purpose of doing this is to help as many people as we can. Just trying other ways.


Boyer: Part of it is outreach for the organization, but part of it was that we want the world to try and relate to people that are going through struggles with a transition such as this. Pain is pain. To say that just because you served in the military and went to war, that your trauma is greater than anybody else’s isn’t fair.

There is an issue with that in our world today where people fail to recognize or acknowledge that pain that someone else is going through because they think it’s lesser or different or not as valuable. I think that’s really unfair and tough. You don’t know what somebody’s gone through and dealt with in their journey. We’ve all got our s—.

VIDEO | 07:17
LA Times Today: How ‘MVP’ spotlights the connections between military vets and retired athletes

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