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March 13, 2019

Drew Tate Was Born To Coach

His first cup of coffee in the coaching fraternity was a short and somewhat eye-opening experience as a defensive analyst at Coastal Carolina University.

“It was a desk job, basically,” recalls Drew Tate with a laugh.

“Still, it was awesome to work with great people and live in Myrtle Beach.”

The eye-opening part for Tate and the entire program occurred when Hurricane Florence hit the region and everybody was forced to evacuate to Jacksonville for ten days.

So no, it wasn’t the smoothest transition into coaching for a guy who was once named Big 10 Player of the Year while playing for the University of Iowa. After being coaxed out of retirement to join the Saskatchewan Roughriders for last November’s playoffs, Tate was tabbed by DeVone Claybrooks to move west as the Lions’ quarterbacks coach.

Tate’s relationship with his new coaching boss dates back to 2009 when he was a quarterback with the Calgary Stampeders and Claybrooks arrived to finish his career as a player before he himself made the smooth transition into coaching. Tate recalls one particular encounter that impressed him. It was whole Stampede week in Cowtown had forced them to get out of town for a few extra days than usual.

“We had one of those extended eastern trips where we stayed in Hamilton before moving onto Toronto,” remembers Tate.

“One night, I went down to the hot tub and Clay was in there reading a book. We started talking about football, about life and he was teaching me about coverages, quarterback reads and all that stuff. I was like ‘shoot man, you really know your stuff.’ Ever since then we’ve had a really good relationship. I felt like I could always trust him and go to him with anything that was on my mind. He’s helped me out a lot. And then my last year in Calgary was his first as the DC so seeing him make that transition was awesome.”

Drew Tate celebrates one of his two touchdown scores in Calgary’s 20-16 win over Hamilton in the 103rd Grey Cup at BC Place in 20104. Photo: Nathan Denette, Canadian Press.

 

Football, just like any other business, has doors open and close at unexpected times. Although the impromptu hot tub chat in Hamilton almost ten years ago played a big role, you could make the argument that Tate was born to coach football.

Growing up in Baytown, Texas, Tate originally learned tricks of the trade from his stepfather Dick Olin, himself a well-known high school coach in the football-mad Lonestar State.

“I became the ball boy at age five and just fell in love with it,” recalls Tate.

“I thought football was the coolest thing in the world and knew I wanted to be a player one day. He (Dick) was way ahead of his time in the 80s and 90s. He coached 12 straight quarterbacks that went on to play Division 1 college football and also invented 7-on-7. Unfortunately, he didn’t patent it though,” he adds with a chuckle.

“We could have both retired and I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. Still, I wouldn’t have traded my experience growing up for anything.”

Olin had moved to Texas from his home state of Iowa and that’s what convinced the young quarterback with plenty of college suitors pick the Hawkeyes program as the place he would continue his life long dream of playing professionally.

Tate’s Big 10 credentials also included being named MVP of the 2005 Capital One Bowl when he helped take down LSU in a 30-25 thriller.

After being cut loose by the St. Louis Rams in 2007, Tate migrated north for two seasons on Saskatchewan’s practice roster before finding a home in Calgary. Although injuries and the emergence of Bo Levi Mitchell meant he only started 14 regular season games in eight seasons there, Tate would still contribute off of the bench and develop into a veteran leader for a Stampeders squad that became the league’s model franchise throughout the decade. He scored Calgary’s only two touchdowns in their 2014 Grey Cup win over Hamilton at BC Place, the venue he will now report to on game day.

Now he can’t wait to hit the field with Mike Reilly and continue helping in the development of second-year pivot Ricky Lloyd.

“I got really really lucky with how this whole thing has played out both personally and professionally,” laughs Tate.

“I’ve been around Mike a little bit and you can tell right away just how sharp he is. I can’t wait to work with him and as I already told him, I will learn from him as much as he learns from me. Jarious Jackson will be a little more hands-on. I am more of the middleman. I will make sure he is the most technically sound quarterback in this league. He can handle the reads and all of the other fundamental stuff on his own. Now, with Ricky and whoever else they bring into camp, I will likely be more involved in helping develop their skills and fundamentals.”

Claybrooks, Tate and the rest of the staff are well into their preparations for May 18th when they and all of the players descend on Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops for the start of 2019 training camp.

And who knows? Maybe the long eastern roadie ten years ago was the start of a significant chapter in his football life.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com