Nat Borchers: 'Kickin' In the Big Time'Kickin'in the BIG TIMEBy Tracy Renck for The Pueblo Chieftain -When Nat Borchers was a senior soccer star at Pueblo East High School he needed something to get fired up before games. He found a solution - rocking out to the head-banging rifts of Metallica. Five years later Borchers still follows the same pre-game ritual by tuning into Lars and Co. "Old habits die hard Borchers 23 said. "Metallica still is what gets me pumped up and ready to play."The difference now is that Borchers is a starting central defender for the Colorado Rapids a Major League Soccer franchise based in Denver. "Playing in the MLS was always a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid the 6-foot-2 180-pound Borchers said. "Now I am living that dream and it is pretty amazing."This past season Borchers led Colorado in minutes played and helped the Rapids post a 10-9-11 record before losing to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the semifinals of the Western Conference playoffs. He also tallied two goals and one assist during the season. The play of Borchers hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates fellow defenders Matt Crawford and Ritchie Kotschau."Nat is always prepared to play and he has a great mindset for games Crawford said. "He also is a very skilled player who will pick you up if you make a mistake. That is why it is great to play with him."Kotschau echoed Crawford."He is very easy to play with because he is always one step ahead of the game Kotschau said. "He has an incredible awareness for the game and he rarely gets beat."Borchers' trek to fame was far from expected.He started playing soccer at the age of 4 and the sport became a staple in his life. However by the time Borchers finished eighth-grade at Heaton Middle School he was suffering from burnout. "I just got back from playing on a soccer tour with a European team and I just didn't know if I wanted to play anymore Borchers said. "I was a small kid and I was still growing and there were a lot of guys quicker than me so I didn't know if I wanted to keep playing."Well Borchers kept playing and that proved to be a wise decision. He had a great prep career leading the Eagles to the Class 4A state playoffs each of his four years.J.D. Carter who coached at East from 1992-2001 knew Borchers was a special talent."Nat had the strongest work ethic of any kid I ever coached Carter said. "Something clicked in him when he was a sophomore. He took his game to the next level."The performance of Borchers who left high school at 6-1 150 pounds helped him land a scholarship to play for the University of Denver."I went to a lot of camps and a few schools were looking at me and I was real comfortable with DU and the coaches there Borchers said."The biggest thing I had to get used to was the practices at the pro level. If you make a make a mistake at practice guys start screaming at you and get all over you. The practices are so intense because jobs are on the line all the time."At DU Borchers was a four-year starter at midfield for the Division I school. He had many highlights with the Pioneers including winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Year as a senior after scoring six goals and registering a team-high six assists.Although Borchers had a stellar stint with DU he was far from a household name."I did get a tryout with the Dallas Burn (of the MLS) in January of 2003 but that wasn't a real good experience for me Borchers said. "It was a two-day tryout and after we finished we had to get in a line to talk to the coach. When I got to the coach he told me that I might be good enough to play in the A League (in the minors). That really fired me up." Still with no soccer options at that time Borchers focused his attention to the accounting internship he had with Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Borchers was logging 60-hour weeks before he received a phone call from Rapids assistant coach Steve Trittschuh."He told me he wanted me to come and try out for the Rapids Borchers said. "I couldn’t believe it."For six months Borchers trained with the Rapids before ever getting in a game.Then on May 25 2003 all of Borchers’ hard work paid dividends when he made his Rapids debut during a 4-0 loss to Chicago."I have to credit Coach Trittschuh; he had me ready to play when I entered that game Borchers said.Borchers was still toiling in obscurity with the Rapids until he received an unexpected opportunity to get on the field less than two weeks later."It was June 6 and we were playing against Los Angeles at the new Home Depot Center Borchers said. "Jeff Stewart our central defender went down with an injury 13 minutes into the game. I didn’t know what was going to happen I was the only guy that could go in for him and the coaches told me to get ready. I only had time to run up the sidelines once and I went in. I was scared a little bit but I figured I had played soccer my entire life and I just had to go out there and do my best."Despite the hostile 27500 fans screaming at him and a national-televised audience watching on ESPN2 Borchers kept his composure and performed well.Borchers learned a short time later that Stewart was lost for the season with a torn ACL injury.Thus Borchers was inserted into the Rapids’ starting lineup and he never left. He was tabbed the team’s 2003 Defender of the Year. "The biggest thing I had to get used to was the practices at the pro level Borchers said. "If you make a make a mistake at practice guys start screaming at you and get all over you. The practices are so intense because jobs are on the line all the time." Not only has Borchers become an anchor for the Rapids he also was invited to play for U.S. Under-23 Men's National Team.Borchers made the 20-man roster which played in the 2004 CONCACAF men's Olympic-qualifying tournament last February in Guadalajara Mexico.The American team missed qualifying for the Olympics when it lost 4-0 to Mexico in the semifinals of the eight-team tourney but the experience was invaluable for Borchers."It was amazing getting to train and play with and against some of the best players in the world Borchers said.Even though Borchers has become a pseudo celebrity he still kept working in the classroom and received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in accounting this past June from DU. "I had a lot of sleepless nights but I was determined to get my degree Borchers said.What’s more Borchers also has found time to give back to the community of Pueblo. "I definitely like to see Pueblo guys do well Borchers said. "I know I was never even the best guy on my high school teams but I kept working hard to get better and that is the message I want to get across to these younger players coming up right now."Borchers most recently spoke to a group of Centennial High School players Dec. 17 and then conducted a clinic the following day at the Colorado State University-Pueblo campus to benefit the Seth Strickland Fund. Strickland is 4 years old and suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. "I would have never made it to the highest level of soccer if I didn't have the support of my family and support from the Pueblo community Borchers said. "I remember when I was growing up some families pitched in to put up a wall (to practice soccer) in University Park. I would go there all the time and kick the ball against the wall." These days in addition to running clinics Borchers is constantly working out to try and get the Rapids to the pinnacle of the MLS. "Winning a championship is the ultimate goal Borchers said. "We have a lot of really good guys on this team and now we have a new head coach; we just need to come together and do whatever we can to bring a championship to the Colorado fans."Fernando Clavijo was named the new head coach of the Rapids on Wednesday. Colorado opens its regular season at the Kansas City Wizards April 2. The Rapids’ home opener is April 9 against Dallas at Invesco Field at Mile High."