Growing Up No. 1

August 24, 2004 note: The following was written by Marc Morehouse and first appeared in Aug. 24, 2004 editions of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

He didn’t yet shave. He was a 5-foot-10 freshman and maybe 150 pounds. And he was the coach’s stepson.

This is how Drew Tate made his debut in the ego-bending, finger-pointing, second-guessing world of Texas high school football.

Freshman quarterback, Class 5A Texas prep football, stepdad for coach.

“First of all, you get the criticism that you’re starting him because he’s your son,’ said Dick Olin, head coach at Baytown Lee High School and Tate’s stepdad. “You have to absorb that and get beyond it.”

Tate completed 5 of 12 passes in that first game, a Lee High victory.

“That is a pressure situation, when you’re the coach’s son and to play at a young age like,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You’re kind of putting it out there. I’m sure he’s heard a lot about that.”

Four years later, Tate set Texas career records for completions (970), attempts (1,576), yards (12,180), touchdown passes (113) and touchdown passes in a half (7).

Tate now is a sturdy 6-foot, 190 pounds. The second-year sophomore shaves and barring a sudden shift in the depth chart, will start for the University of Iowa this fall.

“The thing that people never saw was the amount of time Drew put into being a quarter back. Even in elementary school, Drew was our bellboy and he would take tape of our quarterbacks and break it down. The kid has always been into it.”
Dick Olin, Drew Tate’s high school coach and step-father

“The thing that people never saw was the amount of time Drew put into being a quarter back,” Olin said. “even in elementary school, Drew was our bellboy and he would take tape of our quarterbacks and break it down. The kid has always been into it.”

Tate remembers his first game for Baytown. He doesn’t remember the nerves or the pressure, he remembers his performance and the victory.

“There were a lot of people that said, `He’s only out there because his dad’s the coach,’ and all this and that,” Tate said. “People saying that stuff weren’t in the program. People in the program knew how I was and what kind of person I was and that I could get the job done.

“It’s just like it was here in high school. You don’t listen to what’s said. You just focus on you.”

From the minute he arrived at Iowa, Tate impressed.

As a true freshman last fall he shot up the depth chart, settling in at No. 2. He was the backup to Nathan Chandler during Iowa’s 10-3 run last fall, completing 6 of 11 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

“Tate, the No. 1 thing you notice if you’re around him at all, is he’s a fierce competitor,” offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe said. “I don’t know if he even bothers with all that stuff (the freshman, stepdad coach stuff) to be perfectly honest with you. He’s never thought twice about it, he just wants to get out there and play and compete.

“That’s the thing that’s probably carried him through all that.”

That competitiveness showed during Tate’s recruitment.

Iowa was in on Florida sophomore Chris Leak, a freshman All-American last year for the Gators and the No. 1 prep QB in the nation in 2002.

Tate, who committed to Texas A&M at the end of his sophomore season at Lee, wanted to know where Iowa stood with Leak. Other than Leak, he was OK with whomever Iowa brought in at QB and with whomever Iowa already had at QB.

“It was just a very quiet, casual comment that he made, but it told me a lot about his confidence and the way he felt about himself,” Ferentz said. “He wasn’t worried about competition.

“Is he going to make mistakes? Heck yeah. He’s going to do some things that he wished he hadn’t done, that we all wished he hadn’t done. That’s part of the learning curve and we’ll work through that. That told me something about his personality.”

It’s one thing to be competitive. It’s another to be able to back it up.

O’Keefe rates Tate’s arm strength and release as better than Chandler’s. O’Keefe gives the nod to freshman third-teamer Eric McCollom on arm strength.

Tate ran a spread offense out of the shotgun at Lee. He hadn’t taken a five-step drop before he arrived at Iowa. O’Keefe gives him high marks for his feet.

“He’s pleasantly surprised everyone because he has excellent feet,” O’Keefe said. “He’s very quick to the launch point with his drops and one of the things he has too is he can get rid of the football.”

Tate’s decision making is what separates him from second-teamer Jason Manson.

“These guys are fortunate in a lot of ways and even last year in the meeting room there was a group of guys that probably understood the offense as a whole, as a group, better than any group that we’ve had,” O’Keefe said. “We’re doing more with it (the offense) than we’ve done with it in the past as far as making decisions are concerned.”

For all his upside, the fact remains that Tate has attempted just 11 passes in six games at Iowa. But just as he was five years ago, when he was a freshman starting for his stepdad in Class 5A Texas high school football, Tate is focused on Tate.

“I’ve always been competitive. I’ve always succeeded,” Tate said. “In high school, I was a four-year starter on the varsity and we went to the playoffs four years in a row.

“I’ve got expectations, I’ve got goals. I’ve always reached them. I don’t know why I can’t do it now.”

This is exactly where Tate was five years ago. Only this time he shaves.