Golden Tate started returning punts for the Seahawks in his rookie campaign four years ago.
In 2010, he returned 16 punts for 202 yards, averaging 12.6 yards per return. He didn’t score any touchdowns, but did have a 63-yard punt return against the Denver Broncos.
The next two years, he didn’t return a single punt, taking the backseat to Leon Washington, who served as a mentor to Tate until he became the full-time punt returner in 2013.
“I was very fortunate to be right behind Leon Washington for a couple of years,” said Tate in a video-log for ESPN. “I learned a lot of things from him, [including] sticking your foot in the ground and just getting vertical as fast you can.”
Tate has also learned to use his athletic abilities from other sports to help keep sight of the ball.
“For me, playing baseball makes it a little easier for me to catch the punt.”
This season, Tate has brought his electric energy back to the return game, averaging 13.2 yards per return.
“I’m very fortunate to be on a very hard-working punt return team,” Tate said. “We work so hard during the week to get ready for Sunday’s so it’s a blessing to have those guys in front of me.”
Tate said that his priority is making sure he doesn’t lose the football after he catches it.
“First and foremost, I want to secure the ball and make sure the offense is getting the ball,” he explained. “My goal is…to eliminate one first down that the offense has to get and try to make one big play, and hopefully a game-changing play, each week.”
On Sunday, he had a momentous game-changing play. His career-long 71-yard punt return energized the Seahawks and helped shift the momentum of the game back in Seattle’s favor.
“We strongly believe we can change games on special teams and that’s what we did,” Tate said to the media after Sunday’s win.
Tate knows that he is a play-maker and has proved it to his team throughout the season. His talent is undeniable and while some call him cocky, he believes it to be nothing more than confidence.
“When this team needs a play to be made I want the ball in my hands, some way or another.”
If he continues to make big plays like his punt return on Sunday, there will be many clutch opportunities in his future.