The story of Sean Payton, Cameron Brate and ‘The Boys of Fall’

Hey coach, you may recognize No. 8 in the music video of the Kenny Chesney song
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (84) before an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio) [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]
Published Sept. 11, 2020|Updated Sept. 11, 2020

TAMPA — One of the great football anthems is Kenny Chesney’s “The Boys of Fall.” Saints coach Sean Payton is featured at the start of the music video giving a pre-game speech in the locker room before the opening game of the 2009 season at his alma mater, Naperville Central High School in Illinois.

It’s an inspirational talk as Payton relates how quickly the 27 years had flown by since he stood in that same locker room as the quarterback of the team. He told them the excitement they felt under those Friday night lights only return during your life for special events, like your wedding day and the birth of your children. Focus on the present because time is fleeting, he implored.

What Payton didn’t know is that the lanky kid wearing No. 8 in the back row of that locker room was tight end Cameron Brate.

As fate would have it, Brate left Naperville to play at Harvard and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bucs, who released him after training camp in 2015 after only one season. He spent two weeks in New Orleans playing for Payton on the Saints practice squad before the Bucs got him back by signing him to the active roster. And the rest is history.

Payton didn’t know Brate was member of that team until years later.

"Here’s the truth to the story. I wasn’t (aware),'' Payton said. "And so it was done in ’09 before their opening game of the season. We were in training camp. We had a night off. I flew back there for a Friday night. Cameron was one of the captains on that team. So it really wasn’t anything rehearsed. It was literally right before a game in the locker room and I remember jotting some notes down as to what I might hear if I was a senior in high school. And so, the speech was so good pre-game that we were down 17-0 at the half.

"And fortunately, we came back and won the game. So years later, we have a young tight end in the building for two weeks. He was with Tampa and then Cameron went back to Tampa on their roster. At this point, I still didn’t know he went to Naperville Central where I played. This was two or three seasons ago, I had some friends in from home, we were playing Tampa and you don’t have a lot of time. We were just meeting for a quick drink and I was giving them their tickets and they asked me what’s your play in the red zone for stopping Cameron?' And I said, ‘Well, he’s a challenge.’ And they said, ‘Well, you know he’s from Naperville.’ And I said, ‘No, you’re kidding me.’ And the said, ‘he was in the locker room.’

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So after the game, I wound up seeking him out and getting a picture with him. But it’s funny how things work. I sent the photo to Kenny and told him the story and it’s just time flies. It’s great to see another alum from Naperville Central doing so well.''