A look into Golden Tate's visit to Detroit

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
7:15
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Three days ago, Golden Tate figured everything would stay the same. He was in the Los Angeles area and had his younger sisters visiting from Ole Miss for spring break.

He had just won a Super Bowl with Seattle and had been one of the offensive keys to success on a defense-oriented team, but it was a good situation. One in which he had planned on staying.

[+] EnlargeTate
Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsGolden Tate, a Super Bowl champion with Seattle, is heading to a pass-oriented offense in Detroit.
Except that within a few hours of free agency starting, those plans changed. He was on a plane Tuesday night for Detroit and the possibility of leaving the franchise that drafted him in 2010 for the cold Midwest where he had played his college career.

His sisters were left behind in Los Angeles while their brother went to find out if his life was going to change.

"I did expect to be in Seattle. I knew there was a chance that I wouldn't," Tate said. "It was kind of poor planning on my part. It was their spring break and I was like, 'OK. Yeah, yeah, just come on out. Whatever.' Next thing I know, I was leaving.

"I expected to be in Seattle but I had an open mind that it might not work out that way and it didn't."

Tate's plans were thrown out of whack by more than just his potential move to a new city. The weather in Detroit grounded him -- he was initially supposed to be on a midday flight -- and allowed him to get in a nap at the practice facility and eventually sign his five-year, $31 million deal that will bring him to the Lions.

When Tate arrived Tuesday in Detroit, he ate dinner and said he watched Lions highlights in his hotel room. He had to be up at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday to go through medical testing before making it to the facility in a snowstorm. He met with coaches for a couple of hours and also had a 15-to-20 minute meeting with Lions vice chairman William Clay Ford Jr., a meeting Tate mentioned multiple times during his introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon.

"I went in his office and we talked about a couple things," Tate said. "We talked about football. We talked about charity work. We talked about golf, which is another selling point for me. I hear there are a ton of golf courses, which is so exciting. I have to calm down a little bit.

"We kind of just sat there and got to know each other a little bit and you can tell right away he's a very genuine guy, down to earth guy and that's the type of people I want to surround myself with."

Other than the contract, Detroit's potential offense sold Tate. After playing in a run-heavy Seattle unit where the focus was on a dominant defense, the only way he would leave the Seahawks would be to go to an offense that was at least balanced if not focused on passing.

In Detroit, for multiple reasons, he found that. Tate heard the way new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi described the playbook and saw the way he fit. He knew he could line up opposite Calvin Johnson and that the two could perhaps draw coverage away from the other.

Add running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, along with a strong-armed quarterback in Matthew Stafford, and it felt like an offensive fit.

"After talking to coach [Robert] Prince and coach Joe [Lombardi], I definitely see myself moving around in the slot and outside, over to Calvin's side, us stacking sometimes," Tate said. "There's so many things you can do with a player like myself and a player like Calvin that it's going to be hard to stop us, to be honest."

His future teammates noticed -- even before Tate officially signed.

Earlier Wednesday, Bell said Tate would "be a valuable piece to this already deadly offense."

There are also familiar faces in Detroit for Tate. He played college football at Notre Dame with running back Theo Riddick and tight end Joseph Fauria, who eventually transferred to UCLA. And in Seattle, he was teammates with Kris Durham, who became the Lions' No. 2 receiver last season after an injury to Nate Burleson and ineffectiveness from Patrick Edwards.

"Happy to have him in Detroit," Durham said in a text message to ESPN.com. "Played with him over in Seattle and I know he's going to bring some excitement to the team with his skills."

Those skills are diverse. He can play inside or outside and said he would still be open to returning punts -- a role currently held by another receiver, Jeremy Ross.

But this is what Detroit wanted. It had to find a complement to Calvin Johnson, but it did with one of the top free agents on the market. They needed a receiver with strong hands -- he has some of the best hands in the NFL over the past three seasons -- and someone who could have speed to stretch the field opposite Johnson.

"We were looking, from the offensive standpoint, to find a guy who could go on the other side and be our No. 2 and play opposite to Calvin and certainly give us some work inside and out," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "With immeasurable talent catching the ball and also a guy who can provide some great leadership as well.

"Sets a tone and Golden Tate is going to be that individual."

An individual with a flight to catch after some changed plans. His goal was to return to Los Angeles on Wednesday night so he could spend one day with his sisters before everything else in his life continues to shift.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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