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April 26, 2009It's been an interesting journey for Brandon Tate in recent months, going from one of the most explosive players in college football to suffering multiple ligament tears in his right knee against Notre Dame and watching his NFL Draft stock fall.
Then there was the failed drug test at the Draft Combine, which further hurt his stock.
In the span of a few months Tate went from a surefire first rounder to a questionable selection in any round, but on Sunday morning everything came to fruition, as Tate was selected in the third round by the New England Patriots.
"He's got a great body of work that he's accomplished," said UNC head coach Butch Davis of Tate. "He's a terrific kick returner, which I think is enticing to a lot of teams. He's got great vertical speed. He's got big-play ability."
"He (Coach Davis) just told me to keep my head up and keep doing what I'm doing, and keep praying---put faith in the Lord," said Tate about getting through his adversity. "He told me that if I keep doing what I'm doing, he promised me that I'd be playing football again."
Tate was the third Tar Heel selected in the first 83 selections of this year's Draft---the first time in nearly a decade that UNC has had as many players taken in the first three rounds and a clear positive indicator of the improving program at North Carolina.
Tate leaves college as the NCAA's career leader in combined kickoff returns and punts (3,523 yards), and is the Atlantic Coast Conference's all-time leader in kickoff returns (109) and kickoff return yards (2,688).
In the first game of his senior year against McNeese State, Tate set a new UNC school record with 397 all-purpose yards (142 punt return, 106 rushing, 93 receiving, 56 kick return), averaging over 36 yards per touch.
Tate will provide a valuable hand to the New England passing game at wide receiver, while also serving a key role on special teams.
Tate's ability to return kickoffs and punts was surely a motivating factor in the Patriots' decision to go ahead and select him in the third round when some thought he'd fall further down in the Draft.
In the end, however, Tate has found his home in New England, where he'll get a chance to do many of the things he did to help North Carolina become a significantly better team over his final couple years of college.
He'll also have the opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender that is loaded with veterans, which should lessen the pressure for him to come in and be an immediate superstar.
When healthy, however, that's exactly what Tate is---a superstar with big-play potential---and that's what compelled the Patriots to overlook the knee injury and the drug test to make him their third round choice.