Golden off the field: Ex-Seahawk Tate is more than just a football player
“He went to Tennessee State and I used to go to homecoming games and everyone would make their little sayings,” Tate said. “They called him Elmer’s Glue and say he could catch a BB in the dark.
“And I always got tired of hearing that. So I wanted to be better than my dad and I did whatever extra to be better.”
Golden Tate Sr. loved his son. So he was only too happy to help develop the athletic ability that turned his kid into one of the NFL’s most sure-handed receivers and landed the former Seattle Seahawk a five-year, $31-million contract with the Detroit Lions as a free agent.
Back then, Tate’s father was pulling the graveyard shift as a dock worker and truck driver with Roadway Express in Nashville. He started at 3:30 a.m. and got off at noon. After a short nap, he’d find his son holding a football, ready to practice his catching.
“And he’d have his steel-toed shoes on and he’d punt the ball to me,” Tate said. “He’d punt spiral balls up in the air and I’d go find ways to catch them. I was like 6. For me to be able to judge balls to catch them was kind of special, I guess.”
Tate’s father didn’t mind. Two decades later, the cheerful lilt in his voice tells you everything. It was a labor of love.
“I really enjoyed it, taking him to practice and going to all his games,” his dad said. “It was exciting for me to see, wow, he’s something kind of special. In every sport he played, he played it real hard. It’s just unbelievable.”
And he played everything, except video games. Tate didn’t even care for sports on television.
“I’d watch them for a few minutes,” he said. “Then I’d get bored and want to go try what I saw out in my backyard.”
And he was good from the start. Tate’s father even marveled over the first time he witnessed his son’s special talent as a 7-year-old.
“The first time he went and played organized football, like Single C, Double C, Triple C, I put him on Single C,” Tate Sr. said. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t want him to get hurt against bigger guys.’
“Well, that didn’t work for him. The first practice they moved him to Double C. That didn’t work for him. They moved him to Triple C his first year in football. I imagine he ran for 25 touchdowns in eight games.”
Tate was good, but he wanted to be better. So he kept playing. He became a sure-handed outfielder in baseball, learning how to judge fly balls and throw balls on a crow hop.
He was a good enough at Pope John Paul II High School in Nashville to be selected in the 42nd round of baseball’s amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But Tate started to get good at something other than sports in high school. He began to learn about being a better person from his coach, Jeff Brothers.
“He was the real first coach that I had that taught me a lot of things on the football field,” Tate said. “But more so he kind of helped me be a high-character man. He taught me how to be great on the football field, but also to be just as good in the classroom and in the community.”
Just like he used to do with his dad in the backyard, Tate took the ball from Brothers and ran with it.
When Tate got to Notre Dame, something happened that changed his life. He met coach Charlie Weis’ autistic daughter, Hannah.
“There’s just something that draws me to them,” Tate said. “A lot of their stories are a little different. I find that a lot autistic kids are really, really freakin’ smart. And they bring something special to the table. It’s always fun to kind of feel them out and be around them and see what type of people they are and what makes them so unique.”
Even as a young boy, Tate showed a propensity for helping anyone he could, in his own way.
“He really cared about people, his friends that wasn’t as athletic as he was,” Tate’s father said. “He really tried to help them.”
When Tate was about 10 years old, he could have used some help himself in coping with the loss of his maternal grandmother, Gale Martin, who died of cancer. It wasn’t until his NFL rookie season in 2010 with Seattle that he realized there was a way for children and families affected with cancer to help each other.
During several promotional community-based events NFL teams require their players to participate in, Tate and the Seahawks visited Gilda’s Club Seattle, which is named for Gilda Radner, the comic and native Detroiter who died of ovarian cancer at 42 in 1989.
“It’s been amazing because he understands what we do,” said Anna Gottlieb, executive director of Gilda’s Club Seattle. “He had a grandmother with cancer and he always talks about he remembers how hard it was, hard it was at school to talk to kids about it.
“And we work with a lot of children whose parents have cancer or a family member has cancer, because Gilda’s Club is for everybody, not just people with cancer.”
Tate said the connection has been to make with families and the bonds have come naturally.
“Just going to Gilda’s Club, the house, and just sitting there and listening to their stories and listening to them communicate about their situations, because it’s really something I can relate to,” he said. “I think that’s what makes Gilda’s Club so great.”
Gottlieb said she would never forget a moment Tate shared with a family that touched her. Last November, Tate had met Parmesh Mudaliar, who was a big Seahawks fan, along with his wife, Kelly, and their two young children. In December, Parmesh Mudalier died of colon cancer at 39.
Days after Mudalier’s death, Gilda’s Club held an event. Kelly Mudalier showed up with her kids. So did Tate.
“It actually didn’t make it better, but it showed her kids that people care about them,” Gottlieb said. “Their father took his kids to Seahawks games, and so they had such a special connection.
“And Golden really took them under his wing and offered them tours of the stadium and everyone was crying. It was really a special moment.”
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