CALGARY - With tears in his eyes, ‘Gran’ written on his left forearm and almost certainly feeling the effects of a concussion, Drew Tate tried his best to explain what just happened.
“It’s the most emotional game I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” said a blurry-eyed Tate, trying as hard to fight his emotions as he did to complete the most improbable of finishes in Sunday’s CFL West Division semifinal victory.
“A lot of stuff was going on during the week, a lot of changes throughout the game, I don’t even remember the first half … and how we ended it.
“You can’t write a better script.”
One day after his family buried his beloved grandmother, and 90 minutes after telling a national TV audience he had no recollection of the first half, the Calgary Stampeders quarterback finished the game he dedicated to ‘Gran’ with a dramatic, game-winning 60-yard touchdown bomb to receiver Romby Bryant. It erased a one-point deficit to the Saskatchewan Roughriders with just 20 seconds left, allowing his Stamps to slay their playoff nemesis from Regina 36-30 in front of 30,027 euphoric fans at McMahon Stadium.
Hands on his head in disbelief, Tate was mobbed by teammates as he screamed skyward.
Hours earlier, his hands grasped his helmet in similar fashion following a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit by Roughriders defender Tearrius George early in the second quarter that drew a major penalty and had Tate stunned. At the end of it all, Tate put on display several symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, including memory loss and intense emotion.
“My first thought,” said Tate, lips suddenly trembling as thoughts of Gran rushed back to the fore.
“I don’t even remember to be honest with ya. I just couldn’t believe it. I just feel like right now that was the best thing that ever happened in my personal career. There’s just so much going on in my head right now I don’t even know how to answer these questions.”
All the questions Monday will and should revolve around the apparent silliness of letting Tate play after his halftime admission to TSN. Asked after the game about it, Stamps GM/head coach John Hufnagel appeared genuine when he said he knew nothing about it.
“I just got my bell rung — that’s all,” said Tate, sporting the type of old-school bravado that used to pass in sports.
“No, I’m not concussed. I don’t plan on (missing any time).”
Was he serious about not being able to remember the first half?
“Totally serious,” Tate said.
Question is, did he say anything to the medical staff or teammates, or did he only share his mental block with a million viewers?
It certainly clouds Tate’s storybook outing dedicated to the southern belle he was so close to while growing up. What’s amazing is the man having so much trouble fighting to maintain his composure after the game showed nerves of steel with the game on the line.
“It was so weird, because my mind never went anywhere else but the task at hand, so I’m sure it was with her,” said Tate who had been fighting a litany of emotions since Tuesday when words of her death preceded word of his starting assignment by hours.
“They said (the funeral) was really sad, but the party was really good back at her house.”
The celebration at McMahon appeared to be put on hold with 52 seconds left when a Greg Carr touchdown put the visiting Roughriders up 30-29. Three plays and 81 yards later, the man who had such a shaky first half atoned for an afternoon of missed long bombs with a strike borne out of a delicious pump-fake that drew in the cornerback and gave Bryant open field.
While heaping praise on Tate for his resiliency and poise, Hufnagel admitted after the game Tate needed to play better next week. Tate said as much too, assuming he’s cleared to play to face the host B.C. Lions in the West final.
The stat line will show Tate finishing 22-of-36 for 363 yards and two touchdowns.
What people will remember is the game-winning bomb.
No matter how bruised his brain may be, chances are he’ll remember that one as long as he lives.
Most Stamps fans will, too.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis