Golden Tate remembers the embarrassment of being considered unprofessional and unprepared, back when he was left off the active roster for what should have been his first game in the NFL.
He’s remembered it every day since, in fact.
The Seattle Seahawks’ staff never had concerns about his athleticism and big-play ability; they saw it every day in practice that rookie season.
He might leap over a cluster of defenders and spear the ball with one hand, or he would come down with it and execute some act of uncommon athleticism that would leave defenders grabbing only air.
But on the next play, Golden Tate might miss his assignment, or run his route at the wrong depth. Or maybe he’d be compelled at night to sneak into a donut shop when it wasn’t exactly open.
So coach Pete Carroll made him inactive for the 2010 opener, even though Tate was the team’s second-round draft pick, and even though the team was desperate for playmakers.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, and I’m going to never forget it,” Tate said Sunday after he caught a touchdown and passed for another in the Seahawks’ 28-7 win over the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field.
Since that initial motivational benching, for Tate, it has been “just constant hard work, trying to get better, trying to prove to them that I’m dependable, that they can depend on me to make a play.”
They’re not just depending on him, they’re showcasing him as a primary playmaker, as Tate has scored four touchdowns the past two weeks.
Excitement seems to shadow Tate. The best block of the season? Probably Tate’s demolition of Dallas linebacker Sean Lee.
The most controversial catch of the year in the entire league? Tate’s winning grab against Green Bay.
Sunday against the Jets, he got the Hawks on the board first by going up against tight coverage and coming down with a 38-yard pass from Russell Wilson. Tate wasn’t really open, but Wilson knows if he gets it close, Tate will snatch it from the air.
He also accounted for the Seahawks’ final score, a 23-yard end-around pass to Sidney Rice.
Between those two scores, Tate made one of the season’s most impressive plays on the kind of short pass that has been so effective for him lately.
Facing third-and-5 in the fourth quarter, Tate collected a bubble screen near the right sideline. As soon as he pulled in the ball and turned upfield, Tate saw cornerback Ellis Lankster closing on him. Tate leaped over him.
Once he touched back to earth, linebacker David Harris launched at him, but Tate just bounced off the contact. He then spun to keep safety Yeremiah Bell from getting a hit on him.
When he finally stepped out of bounds 13 yards later, he had eluded three defenders with such a variety of physical maneuvers his teammates were on the verge of applause.
“He jumped in the air and I thought ‘Uh-oh, this is going to be bad,’ ” Wilson said. “And he just bounced off of it. He has those cat-like reflexes, and he just did a great job of continuing to make a play ... and we got a huge first down there.”
Guard John Moffitt had a different take on Tate’s powers of levitation. “He looks like he can hang in the air like he has some kind of super power,” Moffitt said. “He’s got better hang-time than anybody else.”
Tate’s showy performance is no surprise to fullback Michael Robinson. “What Golden is doing now, we’ve been seeing the last two years in practice,” Robinson said. “It just took him a while to make sure he really knows his offense and make sure he can make all the adjustments. I mean ... he’s still a young guy.”
Yes, he’s young (24), but obviously maturing into the job.
“Just get me the ball anyway you can ... in the backfield, a reverse, a pass, whatever it is,” Tate said. “My mindset is any time I get the ball, I can make something special happen; a touchdown, a big first down in a crucial moment, a big gain ... I want to make the most of every single ball that comes my way.”
Golden Tate has earned their trust. He’s done it by never forgetting how bad it felt to be without it.Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 firstname.lastname@example.org @DaveBoling