Most college programs recruited Golden Tate as a running back, but when the Tennessee native made his official visit to Notre Dame, he watched the wide receivers because he figured that is where he could get on the field the fastest.
"I was watching the receivers mostly. I guess Coach Weis saw that and he was like, ‘Obviously, you want to play receiver.' I was like, ‘I feel like I have a better chance of getting on the field as a freshman playing receiver,'" he said. "Because at the time Darius (Walker) was still here and I knew Jeff (Samardzija) and Rhema (McKnight) were leaving so I figured I could get on the field at receiver."
So the Irish took Tate as a wide receiver, but after the 2007 Sugar Bowl Walker declared for the NFL Draft. Tate wondered whether he should think about going back to running back.
"I was like, uh-oh. Should I call Coach and be like ‘If you want me to play running back, I'll play?'" Tate said. "But I said that I'm going to let it play out. If you have the ability, they find a way to get you on the field as you can see. I'm happy now, it's working out."
It certainly is. Coming out of high school, Tate envisioned himself as a do-everything type of offensive player.
"I wanted to be the Reggie Bush-kind of guy, who could catch and have the ball handed off," he said.
Tate still reminds the coaches every now and then about his past experiences in the backfield. In fact, it sounds like the only reason Charlie Weis hesitates to put him back there is because of the current depth at running back.
"That's where his roots are. In high school, he really was a running back. So would he be capable of doing it? Could I get him in there and run toss sweeps with him? You betcha I could. But I like getting Jonas Gray some reps there, and I like to get Robert Hughes a few more reps there," Weis said. "I've already got four running backs I'm trying to get reps to. Could you do that? You definitely could do it because it wouldn't take much, because that's where his roots are as a player."
Weis does not have to hear about Tate playing running back nearly as much as offensive coordinator and running backs coach Mike Haywood.
"Coach Weis, not so much because he's always watching the practice and he's on the side," Tate said. "But Coach Haywood, I'll be out on scout punt return and I'll show him my jab step and all that stuff and we'll just be joking around."
Weis has carved out some other ways to get the ball in Tate's hands more. He is not lining up in the backfield like Bush during his time at Southern Cal, but Tate is getting more opportunities to touch the ball. Against Washington, Tate was back returning punts in addition to catching three balls.
"It's just another opportunity to get the ball in my hands. I've been practicing and the coaches, I guess, they had confidence in me to return punts so they gave me a chance," he said. "It's exciting because anytime the head coach wants to find a way to get the ball in your hands it means he thinks highly of you and he believes you can make plays."
Tate was also handed the ball twice on reverses, one for a touchdown.
"I think it suits my skills just because in high school I played running back," he said. "I have an instinct for reading blocks and handling the ball."
But for the most part, right now the sophomore is still trying to refine the details of playing receiver, which he found out was harder than he thought.
"I knew I could catch," he said. "I didn't know that being receiver had all these fundamentals and all of these things that go with it."
The former running back is also learning to deal with the challenges that come with not carrying the ball 20-30 times a game.
"It's patience," he said. "You ultimately have to be a team player. You have to figure if I'm going to have a bad day or not going to get as many touches as I want then that opens it up for Armando (Allen), Rob (Hughes), James (Aldridge), (Michael) Floyd, (David) Grimes, Duval (Kamara).
"You have to be focused when you're a receiver because although you might not be the primary receiver, the quarterback's reads might end up coming to you based on the coverage. So you have to run crisp routes and be expecting the ball each time. At running back you pretty much know when you're going to get the ball."
While the transition from running back to wide receiver is likely to be a permanent one, there is another change that Tate has to go through annually.
When he signed with the Irish out of high school Weis gave Tate permission to play on the baseball team if he kept his grades up. Tate struggled a bit as a freshman, batting .262 in 18 games.
Everything turned out all right for the last Notre Dame receiver to play baseball, but Tate is not positive that he will play again this year, although he would like to.
"I hope to play. I love both sports still. I guess I'm having some success in football. I'm still young and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do," he said. "As of now, if we had a game tomorrow and football season was over, I'd be playing baseball."
The decision of whether he will play baseball again in the spring will involve input from Tate, Weis and Notre Dame baseball coach Dave Schrage. Tate, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school, is not sure which sport he will eventually end up playing.
"Last year I struggled in football and baseball. If you would have asked me that question last year, I would have been like, ‘Baseball all of the way.' Because I wasn't playing much and now it's like I'm having a blast playing football. Each day I go in to practice and I have fun," he said. "If I had to play right now, I'd pick football just because I'm in season and I'm loving. Once baseball comes around I'll be all in for baseball. I want to play baseball, let's go to MLB, let's go to the World Series."