New Hope High School senior wide receiver Jeremy Tate Jr. poses for a picture with family members Wednesday during a signing ceremony to celebrate his decision to play football at Memphis. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
December 21, 2017 11:50:57 AM
Jeremy Tate Jr. looked the part.
With the help of his father, Jeremy Tate Sr., the New Hope High School senior was color-coordinated Wednesday morning with a tie with blue and gray stripes and a blue flower on the left lapel of his suit jacket. All of the colors worked well with the blue, gray, and white of the University of Memphis.
Tate Jr. had plenty of time to fill out of his wardrobe with clothes from Belk that matched Memphis' colors. After all, Tate Jr. already had given a verbal commitment to play football at Memphis prior to the start of the 2017 football season. On Wednesday, he finalized that decision when he signed a National Letter of Intent on the first day of the new Division I early signing period.
"Those stripes are not given. They are earned. That is what coach told me," Tate Jr. said, referring to a Memphis T-shirt on the table in front of him. "When I get there they are going to have to be earned, just like a starting spot."
Tate Jr. had 46 catches for 727 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. In 2017, Tate Jr. had 60 catches for 850 yards and nine touchdowns. He earned first-team Class 4A, Region 4 honors at wide receiver and first-team honors to The Dispatch's Large Schools All-Area team. He also played in the Mississippi/Alabama Senior All-Star game earlier this month.
Tate Jr. said his performance against Louisville in the first game of the 2016 season convinced him he was ready to play at the highest level. Tate Jr. had three catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns in New Hope's come-from-behind 27-26 victory on Aug. 19, 2016. He added a season-high seven catches against longtime rival West Point later that year.
This season, Tate Jr. had a season-high seven catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Shannon on Sept. 8. He also had seven catches in a loss to Kosciusko on Oct. 8.
"Coach stuck with me, so I stuck with them," Tate Jr. said of his decision to stay with Memphis. He said he received his first scholarship offers from Austin Peay and Memphis and had five others from Division I schools, as well as numerous junior colleges. "They really throw the ball around. I like the campus and the coaches."
New Hope coach Kris Pickle, who wore a blue dress shirt and said "he is a new Memphis fan," said Tate Jr. worked hard to become a "polished" wide receiver. Pickle said he thought Tate Jr. was the best receiver in the state of Mississippi and showed that talent in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, which features some of the best players from two talent-rich states.
Pickle said Tate Jr. remained true to his verbal commitment throughout the process, which speaks highly of the player and the family.
"You can only do so much at practice," Pickle said. "If you're going to play at this level, obviously you have to have God-given ability. But you also have to take what God gives you and apply it and work a little bit on your own. They worked so much on the weekends. ... The credit is all to him. He's worked himself into a position to play at such a high level. I am proud he is able to reap the rewards for what he has put into it."
Pickle said Tate Jr. is a "football player" and said some colleges might have missed out because they weren't sure which position he was going to play in college. He said Tate Jr., who is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, still has plenty of room to grow.
"He has just worked so hard on his route running and his releases," Pickle said. "Every opportunity he has had to work at his skill, he has done that."
Jeremy Tate Sr., who coached Jeremy Jr. in youth football, said his son played quarterback through his early years.
Tate Sr. supplied a lot of the "swag" -- a Memphis hat, a white Memphis T-shirt with the message "These stripes are earned", a blue Memphis T-shirt, a blue Memphis jersey with "Tate Jr." and No. 14, pom poms with blue and gray tassels, and a football with a Memphis logo -- that was displayed on the table family members sat behind during the ceremony in the school library. Tate Sr. said he had to drive up to Memphis on Tuesday night to pick up a hat to finalize the preparations. He said he was proud of his son for staying true to his word and to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Tate Sr. said everyone survived the process despite the uncertainty surrounding Memphis coach Mike Norvell, who signed a contract extension Dec. 5. The extension runs through 2022. Tate Sr. said his son came to love Memphis through the coaching changes throughout the country and didn't take any official visits other than to Memphis.
Tate Sr. said his godbrother, Marcus West, played football at Memphis. In fact, he said he took his son to see a football game at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis 10 or 11 years ago. He didn't remember who Memphis played, but he remembered he was coaching an older youth football team at the time.
After that game, Tate Sr. said his son realized very quickly after starting to play football that he wanted to play football. After starting to play football at 6 years old, Jeremy Tate played football and baseball in his first two years in high school. It wasn't until Tate Jr. decided to focus on football entering his junior year that he realized he had the potential to reach the highest
level in football.
"The biggest thing about him was he always wanted to work," Tate Sr. said. "He was outworking people. For the longest time, I used to tell him it is going to get to a point where everybody has talent. It is going to be the work you put in and the time nobody sees (you working)."
Tate Jr. said his experience playing quarterback helped his maturation as a wide receiver. He said he had to develop the confidence he could catch the football. He admitted it was hard at first because he didn't play a lot during his sophomore year. Two football seasons later, Tate Jr. is primed to showcase his skills at the Division I level.
"That year really humbled me," Tate Jr. said of his sophomore season. "I came home and told my dad I really wanted to play football. From there, we have worked hard every day.
"It has to be extra work. If you do just what you're doing with the team, you're just going to be average because that is what most everybody does. It is the time you put in after (that makes the difference)."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino in Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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