This summer, I’ve been given the opportunity to write a piece for What’s Up? Annapolis Magazine to profile local athletes from Anne Arundel County (my home county) and Maryland’s Eastern Shore who have made it to the professional level.
I’ve been trying to kick it into second gear and actually talk to some of these players.
Fortunately, some have been receptive, including Houston Texans running back Ben Tate, who grew up on the Eastern Shore.
I had the chance to talk to him on Thursday. Most of the conversation centered around his time growing up in Salisbury and going to school in Berlin, Md. and how it helped him get to where he’s at now.
But I did manage to ask him a variety of other questions ranging from how he would fare if he was a member the Redskins or Ravens offensive schemes to if he felt he should be a member of the NFL’s Top 100 players list as seen on NFL Network.
I wanted to know what athletes Ben admired growing up. He told me guys like Michael Jordan, Emmitt Smith, Bo Jackson and Walter Payton.
Keeping it local, that question led me to ask him if he was a Redskins or Ravens fan before making it to the NFL.
He gave me the answer I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear. He was a Dallas Cowboys fan growing up.
Tate was born in Woodbridge, Va and moved to the Eastern Shore before he was five. He proved that Cowboys fans know no bounds on any of Maryland’s shores. Of course I didn’t hold that against him as I finished my round of questions.
Having watched the NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2012 and witnessed current Texans starter Arian Foster reach the 25th spot on that list the last two years, I wanted to know if the former second round selection felt he was just as worthy to be up there with the NFL’s best.
“Yeah. Definitely,” he said with no lack of confidence.
“Just go and look at my numbers. All you gotta do is look at my numbers. Look at the things I do when I have my opportunities. I mean, that speaks for itself. Maybe I don’t have, you know, the 1,200, 1,300 yards just because I didn’t get those opportunities but if you go down there and look at it and break it down based off production and how much I was able to play, there’s no question to me that I should have been on there.”
Selected 58th overall in 2010 from college powerhouse Auburn, Tate was supposed to compete with the incumbent Steve Slaton and second-year back Arian Foster, who went undrafted the year before and averaged just over 5.5 yards per carry in his final two games of his rookie season.
In the 2010 preseason opener, Tate suffered a severe ankle injury that ended his rookie season before it even began. That moment paved the way for Arian Foster to change his career and alter the Texans’ future. It also gave Tate a new perspective on the game he loves.
“I really learned about how much I really miss football, how much I did love it. Just because of the things I went through to get back. All the hard work. I mean, it was tough coming back. Just being able to just sit there and watch the other guys play while you can’t. That was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. It was a very humbling experience. I’m kind of glad that it happened,” he said.
Having discussed his career-altering injury, I wanted to have fun and put him in a hypothetical situation.
Knowing his talent and the fact that he hasn’t fully been able to show it with Foster’s surprising success, I asked him how he would perform if given the chance to play in the Redskins or Ravens offense.
Tate, who told me he feels like he could easily be a starter on an NFL team today, pitched positive reviews my way when explaining the similarities in what Houston runs to what the Redskins and Ravens employ.
“Being that they both run basically the same offense that we run here in Houston, I would probably put up great numbers, Pro Bowl-type numbers,” Tate told me.
“We run basically the same exact offense, just different verbage. Little things are different here and there but basically it’s our offense and then Baltimore kind of started doing a lot of the same things we were doing. Things we had been doing, they started doing last year,” he said.
Having opened the conversation with Ben about his background in Maryland, it was fun to get his take on how he views himself in the NFL now and to play fantasy GM for a bit.
Hopefully this article will appear in What’s Up? Annapolis Magazine sometime in the early fall. I will keep everyone updated when it hits newsstands.