Notre Dame junior wide receiver Golden Tate became the first Golden Domer to win the Biletnikoff Award on Thursday night winning the award over Texas’s Jordan Shipley and Bowling Green’s Freddy Barnes. Tate, Notre Dame’s record setting receiver, was also named to the Walter Camp All American team – the first Irish player to make the team since Shane Walton in 2002.
Tate, who earlier this week announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, blossomed into one of the most dynamic receivers in Notre Dame history this season while setting Notre Dame records for receptions (93) and receiving yards (1,496) and tying the Irish record for receiving touchdowns (15). Tate’s stats were enough to rank him 3rd nationally in yards per game with 124.7 and 7th in catches per game with 7.75.
Stats aside, Tate was most impressive this season in the absence of sophomore Michael Floyd who missed five and a half games due to injury. Unlike in 2008 when Floyd got hurt at the end of the season and Tate struggled with the extra attention placed on him, this season Tate thrived with Floyd on the sidelines. Charlie Weis found ways to get the ball in Tate’s hands and the now NFL bound receiver responded with one of the most memorable seasons an Irish receiver has ever had.
Tate’s two most dominating performances came against Washington and Stanford. Against the Huskies, Tate almost single handily won the game for the Irish with 9 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown with another 31 yards on the ground. Tate’s helicopter spin near the goaline in overtime will also go down as one of the more memorable plays in recent Notre Dame history. Against Stanford, Tate was just as dominating with 10 catches for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Tate came up with some plays that will not soon be forgotten this season as well. At the end of the first half against Washington State Jimmy Clausen launched a Hail Mary into the endzone from midfield with Tate coming down with the acrobatic touchdown grab amid a sea of Cougar defenders. In this year’s showdown with USC, Tate hauled in another long bomb from Clausen to get the Irish back into the game just when it looked like USC was about to pull away.
Notre Dame fans are going to truly miss Tate and his playmaking ability next season even though the Irish will still have a group of very talented young receivers on the roster. Tate came to Notre Dame as a high school running back and will leave as one of the most electrifying players ever to suit up for the Irish and will be mentioned with the likes of Rocket Ismail and Tim Brown. And here are some highlights from Tate’s 2009 season to prove it.
Tate is the first Notre Dame receiver to win the Biletnikoff although Jeff Samardzija was a two time finalist for the award in 2005 and 2006.