At home, Golden Tate is obsessed with catching everything, too. The remote control. Eggs. Whatever. He and his girlfriend don’t hand each other most items. They must be thrown.
And Tate isn’t dropping any household valuables.
Asked if he and his girlfriend ever have an accident playing catch, Tate joked, “Yeah, when I throw back to her.”
The Seahawks wide receiver created a buzz last Sunday with a one-handed touchdown reception against Atlanta that was a testament to his strong hands, focus and ballet-caliber athleticism. It was one of the plays of the year in the NFL, one of the finest catches you’ll ever see. But it was nothing to him, just an everyday thing. He would rather talk about the route he ran to get open, or the daring throw that Russell Wilson made, or the will-breaking significance of scoring a touchdown just before halftime.
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The catch, though? Don’t put it in all caps. Don’t consider it a career-defining moment for Tate. This is what he does all the time, whether it’s catching eggs or a pigskin.
According to Pro Football Focus, an NFL statistical paradise, Tate has only five career drops in 231 targets as he nears the end of Year 4 of his pro career. For a comparison, consider the dependable, sure-handed Doug Baldwin. The third-year pro has 13 drops in 186 targets.
In 2011, Tate did not drop a pass the entire season. He was targeted 54 times, making him the only player in the league to be thrown to at least 50 times without a single drop. Tate has never had a season with more than two drops.
When it comes to good hands, Tate is in Larry Fitzgerald’s company. He should do endorsements for Allstate.
“I’m definitely blessed,” Tate says. “I’m always working hard at it. Playing baseball helped. I also love playing Ping-Pong, tennis, anything that involves good hand-eye coordination.”
Of course, it took time before the Seahawks could make the best use of Tate’s extraordinary gift. He has always been Mr. Good Hands, but it has been a process figuring out how to make him Mr. Reliable.
Tate makes the difficult look easy, but for years, he also made the easy look difficult. He came to the Seahawks in 2010 with eye-popping physical talent that couldn’t be fully utilized because he struggled with fundamentals and discipline.
Today, you see a more complete wide receiver. While Tate is not yet a dominant No. 1 wide receiver and may never be, he is living up to his preseason vow to have an even greater impact.
He has 41 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns receiving this season. He also is averaging 13.7 yards per punt return, and Pro Football Focus’ advanced stats rate him the second-most effective returner in the NFL. Tate’s receiving numbers seem ordinary, but for a Seahawks team that ranks next-to-last in the league in pass attempts, he has done good work.
Tate, who is a free agent headed for a hefty raise after this season, is on pace to catch 66 passes for 918 yards. That would exceed his career highs of 45 receptions and 688 yards from last season. With Sidney Rice out for the rest of the year with a knee injury, it’s not crazy to envision Tate reaching 1,000 receiving yards this season, even with Percy Harvin set to return.
“People talk about our so-called no-name wide receivers, but they should take a closer look,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “Look at Golden Tate out there making crazy one-handed catches. You have to respect our receivers a lot more than you think, and Golden’s a big part of that.”
The 25-year-old Tate was once known for his Top Pot doughnut heist. Then he became infamous for his game-winning faux reception against Green Bay on “Monday Night Football.” And even though he continues to improve and mature, he has received the most attention this season for his taunting touchdown against St. Louis.
Tate isn’t an immature punk living on the edge, however.
He’s thoughtful. He’s well-intentioned most of the time. And his hard-nosed, aggressive style fits the smash-mouth Seahawks perfectly.
Tate’s desire to be great is possibly unrivaled, even on a team full of ambitious, competitive players. That’s always been the case. What’s different is that he understands and focuses on the nuances of becoming a great player. He runs better routes. He knows the playbook and studies film. He’s still a risk-taker, but he’s not an ignorant one anymore. He knows what he’s doing now.
He has earned the Seahawks’ trust. Now he wants to show they can rely on him even more.
“Every time I’m out there, I want to make a play so bad,” Tate says. “So bad.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked recently to describe Tate to an outsider.
“He’s an extraordinary, natural athlete with natural gifts that sometimes get masked, and you have to come to appreciate,” Carroll said. “I think we saw it in the process of drafting him. And then, for a while, we couldn’t find him. He got lost in the mix of his development as a young player.”
At first, Tate’s development caused headaches. He quickly fell out of favor with former offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who once had expectations so high that he told the wide receiver he was capable of catching 90 passes as a rookie.
After the scar tissue of that relationship healed and Tate dedicated himself wholly to the game, his progress has been incremental, if not outstanding. He came to the NFL thinking he would be handed stardom. Four years later, he has earned every opportunity.
“He’s been the same athlete all along,” Carroll said. “We didn’t respect him enough to take the risk and the rewards of it, as he was learning how to be a player in our system. He’s very gifted, really free-spirited and a confident athlete that really does believe that he could do special things in a game. He’s rare that way.”
Tate is humble and hungry now, so it’s OK to throw praise his way. For sure, you know he won’t drop it.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org