As 2015 wide receiver Auden Tate sat flanked by his parents in the principal’s conference room at Wharton High School for his commitment ceremony Tuesday, his mother Nicki admitted to the crowd of people that spilled out into the hallway that she didn’t think the day would ever come.
It was just four years ago that her son — who had always been a small child — tried out for the Dutch Fork Middle School football team and was cut.
“I was like, ‘Well, baby, maybe you’ll try a different sport,’ ” Nicki Tate recalled.
But for Auden Tate, that moment only made him want it more.
“It made me real hungry,” he said.
In the years since, Tate went from being a kid his middle school team didn’t want to a four-star recruit with offers from 20 Division I football programs. And Tuesday morning, in front of a crowd of more than 60 crammed into the small room in the school’s front office, Tate announced his commitment to Florida State, peeling off his T-shirt to show one from the defending national championship underneath.
Tate, who still plans to take official visits to Florida State and Michigan this fall, said his decision came down to the Seminoles or Maryland — making him one of several top recruits in the Tampa Bay area considering the Terrapins.
In the end, Tate said it was interactions with strength and condition coach Vic Viloria that helped him make up his mind. Viloria, he said, didn’t fill his head with what could be empty promises; all he guaranteed him was an opportunity to compete for a spot on the field.
With numbers like he put up last season for the Wildcats, that’s exactly what Tate could do in Tallahassee. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound junior had 49 receptions for 815 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. And despite Wharton bringing in two new young quarterbacks this season, Tate said he doesn’t expect his output to change.
“They’re going to progress a lot, so it’s my job to help them feel comfortable in the offense,” he said. “But I feel like they know what they’re doing.”