In a world where it's about specialization where every single person seems to have one position stamped onto their size and speed, it's those players that can play more than one position and do it well that are the standouts amongst standouts.
Michael Tate ranked 3rd on this team last year in tackles from the rush end position. That's with missing two games from a shoulder injury. He also filled in at linebacker where he only put together a 20 tackle effort. Ok, now this year, he's moving to defensive tackle. How's that for versatile? If Michael is going to make the transition from outside to inside however, he knows there's areas to work on. "I have to get strong, a lot stronger to play with those big boys in the middle." Michael said. "My shoulder isn't strong enough yet, so I have been working out real hard to get stronger for the season."
Around a 300 bench and 500 squat would do for pretty much any position on the field, but the move to the trenches will no doubt test Tate's power, but he'll still have the thing that has made him the success he was on the outside of the line. "I'm quick." Michael said. "I use that swim move, because that's my favorite and even if they know it's coming, they still can't stop it."
There's also something else nobody can stop, not even his own teammates. "I'm the mouth of the team." Tate remarked about his on-the-field character. "At a 7 on 7 camp, after 1 on 1 drills, guys were yelling out ‘I'm going to get 44(Tate's number). I am going to shut him up.' and that's how I play."
Some have said of Tate that he is destined to be the next Chadd Evans, a fellow Tulsa native that verbaled to Colorado, but was more well known for his own verbal antics on the field. "You couldn't do anything to shut him up." Tate said. "Everyone says I am going to be the next him."
It's not an arrogant way of playing mind you, rather for some, it's how they get themselves up and others out of their game. It's also a way for a player simply to have fun as smack talk has become almost synonymous with any sport you can think of. In addition, for some, it's just the way they play. "I can't explain it." Tate stated. "It's just natural I guess. I don't know what I am going to say, but I say it."
What he says probably won't make anything printable, who he says it to, well, that's for anyone within earshot of him, but it's worked and as a guy that has to face the big offensive tackles and guards all game, it can be an advantage most of the time. "You can always get them out of their game." Michael said of getting in the offensive linemen's head. "As for the quarterback, you get to him once and I'll be talking to him all the rest of the game."
That spontaneous banter is as much of his game as the tackles themselves, so to say it is his game isn't overstating it to any degree. It's been enough to get him noticed by many and offered by a couple thus far. "I've got offers from Tulsa and today, from Arkansas, but I am still waiting."
Michael is firm on making the right decision, but there is one particular school that he's anticipating, maybe even hoping will offer him soon. "I'm waiting on an offer from Nebraska." Michael said. "I think they'll offer me after camp (Jun. 11th)."
Why Nebraska? "I've just been a fan of them longer than I can remember. There's just something about them that I like."
Nebraska has been one of those schools in consistent contact by the regular form letters recruits are bound to see this time of year.
Affection aside though, Michael takes a realistic and common-sense approach to how and of course, when he will make his decision. "I don't know if I want to go through the whole recruiting process." he said. "But, I would want to wait until at least the end of the season and after I sit down with my family and figure out what I want to do."
The transition Michael will make to the interior will be a tough one, even for him. The added physical demands, demand that he find himself preparing for that time. It's a time he's more than ready for, physically and yes, verbally as well. That's what makes it fun.
"You still have a job to do out there, but if you aren't having fun, then there's no point in even playing the game."
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619