Golden Tate was feeling pretty good after he caught that 48-yard scoring bomb from Jimmy Clausen to give Notre Dame a three-touchdown lead in the first quarter of the game against Michigan on Saturday. Tate ran over to offer a declaration to his head coach.
"He catches that touchdown and he looks at me and he says, ‘I cannot be stopped.'" Charlie Weis laughed. "He's saying it in jest, but I'm looking at him, only Golden would sit there and come to the head coach and say, ‘I cannot be stopped.'"
Wide receivers coach Rob Ianello heard Tate's proclamation.
"Yeah I heard him say that. I said, ‘You get on over here and we're going to run the next play for the next series.' But you have to have that attitude. The really great pitchers, they're going to go in and pitch and you're not going to hit them. The great hitters are not going to let a guy strike them out. So you have to have that about you," Ianello said. "But why can't they cover you? What are we going to do to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy? I want confidence. I don't want cockiness, I want confidence, there's a difference."
Tate says that he wasn't being serious.
"It was kind of just in the moment, I obviously don't think that because I come to practice everyday working hard. I was just excited, first pass thrown my way, a touchdown pass, it was pretty spectacular to me at least," he said. "That's how I felt in the moment."
According to Weis, at this time last year it would have been a lot easier for a defender to stop him.
"I mean that route, he's going in there making it look like he's trying to block the safety and then turning it up field. The safety thought exactly that. He thought he was going in to block the safety," said Weis. "Last year at this time he would have taken one step toward the safety and just ran up the field and then the disguise would have gone for naught and the safety would have turn and ran with him. Now, I don't know if he could have run with him, but that's the difference of nuance route between last year and this year, him having an understanding of what exactly he's trying to do."
Tate did not disagree.
"Last year I would have done it way too quick and would have messed up the whole play probably," he said.
Tate caught the winning touchdown pass in the opener against San Diego State and while his celebration was subdued, it was premeditated. Offensive coordinator Michael Haywood even got a sneak peek at it in practice.
"We threw a slant to him and he broke down the middle of the field in practice and he's running past everyone and he just stops at the 50-yard line. So I just blow the whistle because he stopped, but he stopped there staring. I said, ‘Golden, tell me what you were thinking,'" Haywood recalled. "He said, ‘Coach, when I get my first touchdown I was thinking about what I was going to do so the stare was the best thing for me to do not to get a 15-yarder.'"
Tate remembered what Coach Haywood was referring to.
"I was just being myself," he said. "I saw myself scoring and I just stopped at like the 50-yard line and just kind of stared at the end zone thinking, ‘What would I do in front of 80,000 people at home?' It turned over to the game and when I caught the touchdown I didn't know what to do, but I know I didn't want to get a 15-yard personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct and I just stared and I just waited on the guys to come congratulate me."
The coaches all love Tate and a smile comes to their face whenever they talk about him.
"Golden's a free spirit. He's a free spirit, he's loved by his teammates, he can be boisterous at times in a positive way, not in a negative way," Ianello said. "He enjoys playing. He's Ernie Banks, he'd go out and play two. He enjoys it that much."
"I love him," Haywood said. "I sit there and just laugh at him all of the time."
Haywood is even willing to take the bad with the good when it comes to Tate.
"You just have to suffer through the growing pains because he may blow a route here, he may blow a route there, he may not convert on this play, but so what?" Haywood said. "He's going up and making plays. So you just keep getting him the ball."
Already one of the stars on the team, it's scary to think about how good he can be once the former running back puts it all together at receiver.
"In his case, because he has such God-given ability, you know which he does. I mean he has great wheels, he has hands, he has all those other things. I think because it's the second go-around, second time through," Weis said. "Last year was his first year even being indoctrinated to playing the wide receiver position. You would have expected him to make a huge leap. You just didn't know how big a leap. But I think his best football is a long way away from where he is now."
HAYWOOD HELPS OUT: A Houston native, Haywood still has family in Texas and is playing host to them in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Over the weekend, Haywood said that he got tickets for 18 relatives that were staying with him. It's down to five now, but Haywood says that he does not mind the company.
"It really doesn't affect my life. I'm single, I just go home. My family is here and it's really comforting. I usually go home and there's no one to talk to," he said. "Now I go home and there's some people to talk to. I talk to my mom, my dad, my sister, my niece, my nephew. I spend an hour with them. The only difference is I get less sleep."
His family does not know when they will be able to return home, but for now are enjoying their stay in Indiana.
"They're doing good. They're having a great time, they got the opportunity to come out to practice (Tuesday) and have a great time," he said. "They just have no idea when they're going home, but it really doesn't matter they have the comforts of home at my place."
WEIS CHANGES MENTALITY: When Weis did his program evaluation after last season, one of the things that he wanted to change was the mentality of the team. He wanted his guys to have more fun playing the game.
"We'd go out for a game and all those other teams would be out there loose and ready to go. And I'm not talking about being goofballs now, I'm talking about going out and looking like they were going to enjoy themselves. And that wasn't our team," Weis said. "As I told you before, it's one of the things, as I evaluated me and us and our program and where we are, I thought had to change. And I think it's changing. I think you saw those guys really enjoying themselves the other day. To be honest with you, if you would have watched them in the fourth quarter against San Diego State, they were really enjoying themselves then, too. Hopefully that's the signs of many more enjoying moments as they get at it this year."
Weis has seen his team embrace that idea, but has yet to see it cross the line.
"Not yet. If that time comes, you know, if that time comes, I'll address that, too. But what you can't do, you want to push them to the edge," he said. "You don't want to push them over the edge, but you want to stay as close to living on the edge as you can right there, because that's when I feel you're getting the most out of them."
SUCCESS A CHANGE TOO: Charlie Weis went 19-6 in his first two years in South Bend, but this is a young team. Most of the players on this squad weren't around for that success and the ones that were did not contribute much, so success is relatively new and is something else that Weis has to deal with.
"That's probably the first thing I'm going to talk to them about when I get them in here," Weis said. "You go through a whole year where you come in every Monday you walk into class and everyone said, ‘What's up with that? What's up with that?' Now all of a sudden you go to class on Monday and everyone's, ‘Hey, great job. Great job. Great job.'
"Now, do you feel better? Absolutely. But Tuesday is a big workday. Monday's a workday, but it's an orientation day for the game plan. Tuesday is a big workday. So today they can't have a bad day today. They need to have a good day today, because it will show that the team has enough maturity to put that wind behind them, just like you would put a loss behind you and go ahead and move forward."
SHANAHAN'S DECISION SHOCKS WEIS: Weis could not believe that Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan went for the two-point conversion that earned his team a 38-37 win over the Chargers on Sunday.
"I was shocked. I wasn't surprised. I was shocked. I was shocked," Weis said. "Hey, it worked, so good for him. But I was shocked. I don't know if I'd ever -- you know, I don't know if I ever would have done that in the NFL, I just don't know. I was shocked. That's the best way I could say it. Fortunately for him, he was right."
Obviously there would have been a backlash had the conversion failed.
"See you get to call whether or not you want a sure point versus a maybe two points. I mean, there's a big difference now," Weis said. "Look at your team, you're the head coach of a bunch of professionals, you get the two-point conversion so you win and everyone loves you. But you don't get the two-point conversion, I can guarantee you about 43 of them are saying, 'Why didn't we just kick it?'"