HENDERSONVILLE — Golden Tate’s high school football career started with a rejection, but the school that accepted him gave him a high honor on Thursday evening.
The Detroit Lions wide receiver returned to his alma mater to have his football jersey — No. 23 — retired by Pope John Paul II, where he played multiple sports from 2003-07.
“It’s an incredible honor, and it’s something that I’m probably going to appreciate when I have kids,” Tate said. “Right now, I’m just happy to have family here to celebrate it and have some faces — some old, some new — to be with. I never thought coming into high school that I was going to have my jersey retired.”
Tate flew in for the ceremony after the Lions completed organized team activities on Thursday morning and is scheduled to host a youth football camp Friday at JPII.
“It’s been something that’s been on my heart for a while,” Tate said of establishing the inaugural camp. “I’ve been wanting to do one for years, and I just didn’t know where to start, … I’d love to be here every year and have a camp and grow it. It’s just a small way for me to give back to the community that played such a huge role in where I am today.”
Tate enrolled at JPII after being turned down by Montgomery Bell Academy.
“MBA turned me down,” Tate said. “I ended up going over to St. Joseph School (Madison), where they accepted me. I spent a year there and made some great friends and met some great people. Then I met (former PJPII coach Jeff Brothers) and learned that all my friends that I made were going to go to PJPII … financially, I wasn’t able to come here on my own, but my grandfather and my mother found a way to get me here.”
Tate played football, baseball and ran track in high school — after he injured his thumb and was unable to play baseball in his senior season, he was a part of the 4×100-meter relay team that won the Division II state title in 2007.
In his senior football season, Tate rushed for 1,413 yards and 23 touchdowns on 140 carries and caught 28 passes for 510 yards and six scores. He also intercepted three passes and had a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Tate said he gets back to Nashville as much as he can, as he still has family living in the area, but he admitted he hadn’t been back to Hendersonville as much.
“Hopefully we’ll change that a little bit more,” Tate said. “I’ve just set up my foundation (the Golden Future Foundation) and I’ll have a chance to set up hopefully a lot of events. It’s great to have the support of the people in this community and in Sumner County and at PJPII.”
Tate has established a scholarship fund — the Golden Tate scholarship — for Pope John Paul II student-athletes as well.
“It’s going to be for student-first athletes,” Tate said, “just to give them the same chance I had. I’m excited for that. It’s an incredible blessing to be on this platform and be able to affect families like we can. I’m going to do my part and try to help that.”
After winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks — who drafted him in the second round with the 60th overall pick in the 2010 draft — Tate signed a five-year deal with the Lions in 2014. He is the team’s leading returning pass-catcher (90 receptions, 813 yards, six touchdowns) after Calvin Johnson’s retirement following the 2015 season.
Reach Chris Brooks at 615-575-7118 and on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.