Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Lars Tate, who died of cancer on Monday, August 1 at age 56, made an epic touchdown run that many Bucs fans won’t forget.
A second-round pick in 1988, Tate, flipped over linemen and darted 47 yards for a touchdown against the then-Phoenix Cardinals that year. UnsualSports shared the highlight video of the play on YouTube.
Tate played two seasons for the Bucs — leading the team in rushing both seasons. He amassed 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns in two years, and he led rookie running backs in touchdowns in 1988 according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Unfortunately for Tate, the Bucs went a different direction at running back and cut him in 1990. Late former Bucs head coach Ray Perkins told Stroud in March 1990 that he wanted a stronger playmaker than what Tate produced. The Bucs drafted Reggie Cobb that spring.
Tate signed with the Chicago Bears in 1990 and played in three games that season. A neck injury ended his career.
His storied college career at Georgia gained him recognition as he performed big in the shadow of former Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker. Tate led the Bulldogs in rushing for 1986 and 1987, just years after Walker’s Heisman Trophy season in 1982 and a national title in 1980.
“I just wanted to establish myself as Lars Tate,” he said in 1987 according to the Chicago Tribune via the Athens Banner-Herald’s Marc Weiszer. “I tried to keep all that out of my mind, but I was tense at first and not running as well as I thought I should. I was not relaxed. I was trying too hard.”
Former Georgia teammate and offensive guard Kim Stephens recently concurred on Tate’s drive after receiving news of his death.
“He was fast and smooth is the best way to describe him,” Stephen said per Weiszer. “He was highly motivated and super talented.”
Tate is survived by his sons Stephen and Donavan, daughter Lauren, and his four grandchildren.
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Tate’s Brief Battle With Cancer
Tate had chemotherapy set to begin this week, a month after a stage 3 throat cancer diagnosis according to Weiszer.
“It was kind of sudden,” Donavan Tate said via Weiszer. “If you knew him and how he was, you just thought cancer was the next thing that he was going to overcome. Even with conversations with him, he was in good spirits.”
Tate previously survived getting “shot in the throat in a domestic dispute in 1997” in Indianapolis, Weiszer wrote. Donavan Tate said his father also dealt with concussions from his playing days per Weiszer.
An Indianapolis native, Tate returned to the Tampa area three years ago to live with his girlfriend, Kelli Edwards, Weiszer wrote.
Tate’s Stardom Took Off in Indianapolis
Before Tate hit the national scene at Georgia or the NFL with the Bucs and Bears, he wowed the local crowd in Indianapolis as a high school star at North Central.
Tate became the National Gatorade National High School Offensive Player of the Year in 1983. He rushed for 1,417 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior — his final act among years of athletic prowess in the Indianapolis area.
“He’s gone, but he’ll never be forgotten, especially in this state,” Tate’s former high school teammate Chris Skidmore said via the Indianapolis Star’s Matt VanTryon. “He is the best athlete I have ever seen. He did things that I’d never seen anybody else do. I had a different perspective on it. I had to actually tackle him in practice. It was like tackling a rolling locomotive.”