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Tate makes transition from athlete to receiver

Chris Hine | Thursday, September 11, 2008

Against San Diego State, sophomore wideout Golden Tate caught six passes for 93 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown.

Not bad for someone who a year ago was “a chicken with his head cut off,” according to offensive coordinator Mike Haywood.

“He was just out there running,” Haywood said. “… But he’s done a good job, he works really hard. He’s one of the guys that I like to joke with at practice because he’s a funny guy, but he’s really conscientious about getting better every day.”

Last season, Tate primarily knew how to do one thing as a receiver – run the go-route. Slants? Outs? Comebacks? Forget it. They’d have to wait. But now with a season and many post-practice sessions with wide receivers coach Rob Ianello under his belt, Tate does more than just run as fast as he can down the field.

“I feel like a more complete receiver,” Tate said. “I feel like I know what I’m doing and I feel like the team and coaches have confidence in me.”

Tate made a splash on Sept. 29 last season when the Irish played Purdue, catching three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Each catch came on a go-route.

“I wasn’t in the game plan that much. I was just on the sideline and coach is like ’23,'” Tate said. “I heard it echo a few times and he was just like, ‘Run straight.’ And I didn’t even run it correctly but I came up with the ball.”

After the game, Tate, a native of Hendersonville, Tenn., became somewhat of a cult hero, a bright spot in an otherwise dim season for Notre Dame. Facebook groups named after him appeared and T-shirts were made in honor of the “Golden-Go.”

“The response caught me by surprise and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was possible.’ I just tried not to let it get to my head,” Tate said. “I was calling my family and telling them. It was so new to me. I can’t believe this in college that the whole world is looking at me like this.”

Even though his popularity with the fans grew, he still didn’t get on the field as much as he’d like. But he understood why.

“Last year the game was just moving way too fast. It was almost like I was playing a sport I never played before,” he said.

Tate realizes now that he had to earn the coaches’ trust in order to get on the field.

“Last year it was tough just because last year I didn’t understand – I can catch the ball, run certain routes, why am I not on the field?” Tate said. “But now as a sophomore, being more mature, you understand that the coaches didn’t have confidence that I was going to do the right thing. You really don’t have plays to spare and as a head coach, you don’t want to sit on the sideline and wonder, ‘What is this guy going to do?’ I understand it now, last year I didn’t.”

But in 2008, Tate has gone from someone who could provide an occasional spark to an integral part of Notre Dame’s receiving corps.

When Notre Dame went with a no-huddle offense against San Diego State, Tate caught three passes for 63 yards. He caught a couple of slant passes, but he hasn’t forgotten how to run the go route. His 38-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen put Notre Dame ahead for good.

But Tate said even that go-route wouldn’t have happened a year ago. He and Clausen surveyed the coverage and decided to adjust Tate’s route before the snap.

“Last year, I would’ve run the original route,” Tate said. “And he would’ve thrown it and it might’ve been picked off and I would’ve been like, ‘Wait, what’s going on?'”

Luckily for Notre Dame, this isn’t last year.