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Tate forgoes senior year: ‘Go out while you’re hot’

Sam Werner | Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If you had told Golden Tate two years ago that he’d be in this position, he might have called you crazy.

“My freshman year, you can ask some of [the other players], you could tell me a play and I still wouldn’t know how to run it,” Tate said. “So I think I’ve grown a lot. I’ve made big steps. But, no, I never would have thought I’d be sitting here after my junior season declaring to go to the draft.”

Starting just two games in 2007, Tate caught just six passes in his rookie campaign. He did, however, provide one of the highlights of a dismal 3-9 season. Against Purdue, the then-unknown freshman hauled in three difficult catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Tate didn’t play much over the rest of the season, but he had already made an impact with Notre Dame fans. Shortly after the breakout game against the Boilermakers, students began printing t-shirts with the slogan “Golden is Thy Tate,” and Tate’s signature fly route on the back.

Entering 2008, not much was expected of Tate, especially after the dual-sport star missed most of spring practice due to baseball. In the season opener against San Diego State, though, Tate caught a team-high six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.

“The game has slowed since last year,” Tate said after the game. “I have time to think about the coverage and my routes. It’s great. I felt like I was playing football and really enjoying it.”

During his sophomore season, Tate led the team with 58 catches for 1,080 yards and 10 scores, including a six-catch, 177-yard, three-touchdown performance in Notre Dame’s 49-21 romp over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.

Even Tate, though, could not have predicted the improvement he would make from his sophomore to junior year, which included numerous broken records and a selection as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the best receiver in the country.

As it stands, Tate holds Notre Dame records for receptions in a season, receiving yards in a season, receiving yards in a career and touchdown receptions in the season. He is second in career touchdown receptions and total touchdowns in a season.

Perhaps what’s most memorable about Tate’s junior campaign, though, was how he turned in his best performances when fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd was out with a broken collarbone.

In the five games that Floyd missed, Tate averaged 7.4 catches for 125.2 yards and more than a touchdown per game. On the year, Tate caught 93 passes for 1,496 yards and 15 scores, in addition to running for an additional 186 yards and two touchdowns.

“Coming into my junior season Coach Weis and I actually had a conversation,” Tate said. “He said I wouldn’t leave after junior year unless I had 17 touchdowns and about 1500 yards. He hit the nail right on the head.”

As for his decision to leave for the NFL, Tate said the choice was harder than some may have thought.

“When you come to Notre Dame you know you’re going to develop some very good relationships with people,” Tate said. “Going into this year, I’m expecting to be here for another year after my junior year. Then for it to become a reality that I might not be here and to leave the people up here that I love so much and develop great relationships with, it’s tough.”

As for the factors that went into Tate’s decision, he said that the ongoing coaching search, as well as Clausen’s decision to declare early, played a role. Tate said that the main reason for his decision, though, was the fact that he didn’t feel he could improve on his record-breaking junior season.

“After having the year that I had, I’m not sure if I can even do much better,” he said. “So I just feel like it was the right time. Go out while you’re hot, you know.”

ESPN.com’s Scouts, Inc. has Tate ranked as the 26th-best available overall prospect, and draft projections range from the first to third round.

Right now, though, Tate said he’s just worried about finding an agent and taking the next steps in the draft process. He said that, ultimately, he plans to return to school and finish his degree. As for all the draft projections, that’s a worry for another day.

“I’ve talked with a few people, and I think they predict me to go between the first and the seventh (final) round, so somewhere between there,” Tate said in complete deadpan. “But I’m not sure. I’m just going to start working towards being up there.”

For a full profile of Tate that ran before Notre Dame’s matchup against Purdue earlier this season, click here.