Little man Tate delivers

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:26 PM ET

Jason Tate stuck out on Sunday for all the right reasons.

The defensive back picked off two passes on the first day of Blue Bomber training camp, which doesn’t often happen to players straight out of the U.S. college ranks or to someone who was signed in late May to fill out the roster.

Tate didn’t always stick out for the right reasons, but he said he has lived and learned, and the Bomber brass believes in both the player and the person.

“I want to play. I want to make this team,” Tate said Monday. “Coach asked me if I wanted to be on punts. I said, ‘Coach, I’ll be on PAT, even though you don’t have little guys on PAT. I’ll be on it if you want me to.’

“Wherever I can help this team win, I’ll be wherever he needs me. I’ll learn whatever I have to learn to still be on this field come fall and stick around.”

Tate was a two-year starter at Illinois State University, the alma mater of former Bomber quarterback Kevin Glenn, when he was dismissed from the team last summer, prior to his senior season, in the wake of team violations and two arrests.

The 5-foot-11, 182-pound halfback said he had already decided to leave Illinois State before he got kicked off the team, but he was out of there nonetheless. He ended up in Florence, Ala., playing at the University of North Alabama under Terry Bowden, the son of legendary former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

Tate started all 13 games for the Lions last fall, recording two interceptions, 42 tackles, a team-leading seven pass knockdowns and three tackles for a loss.

“I honestly think that was the best move of my life,” Tate said. “Quite the coach, quite the transition. I’m all about transition. I’m willing to do whatever it takes for me to stay playing ball.”

The 23-year-old from Lake Mary, Fla., almost ran himself out of football at Illinois State. According to the McLean County Circuit Clerk, Tate was charged in 2009 with driving under the influence of alcohol and with domestic battery, a misdemeanor to which he pleaded guilty but received a conditional discharge.

Tate admitted the charges were the result of “bad judgment,” but he added that the crowd he hung around with didn’t help him stay on the straight and narrow. The new Bomber regime is big on character, and it did its homework on everybody in camp, including Tate.

“It wasn’t anything major, and I check all that out,” Bombers director of player personnel Ken Moll said of Tate’s past. “I’ve made several phone calls on that. And we look at that. We definitely look at that. It wasn’t anything to be concerned about.

“You’re not going to have all angels here, but yet we want to make sure we bring the right people in with the right attitude. And he’s going to be fine. We’re pleased so far.”

Tate is a fighter, as evidenced by an incident during his junior year when he was taken off the field in an ambulance but played a week later.

And even though he played a part in knocking himself down with his behaviour at Illinois State, he’s dusted himself off and got right back up — with a big assist from his mom, Gwen.

“My mom is the most influential person in my life,” said Tate, who will also take reps at kick returner. “She gives me all my guidance, and she lets me know everything, like the truth. Even if I don’t want to hear it, she lets it be known.”

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca


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