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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Football Guide ’17: Pro baseball to Arizona football

Left: Donavan Tate (50) playing for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2016.Tate was selected in the third overall in the Major Leauge Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. (

Right: Freshman quarterback Donavan Tate (15) during week two of football practice for the 2017 season. (Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics)

After a six-year professional baseball career, freshman quarterback Donavan Tate’s transition from the diamond to the football field was risky. 

The 26-year-old hasn’t played organized football in eight years; his last game was in 2009 at Clarenceville High in Georgia, where he finished as an ESPN Top 100 recruit before being drafted third overall in the Major League Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. 

However, Tate’s natural athleticism has helped him stand out during camp this year. 

“He’s an athletic, tough guy. He’s not afraid to stick his face in there,” said Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez. 

“I don’t know if he ever ran into a catcher or tried to break up a double play, but he had about six or seven of those the other day. I’m excited about him.” 

Tate’s rapid adjustment to Rodriguez’s offense, along with his physical attributes, has launched  him into the starting quarterback discussion.  

“He can definitely compete for it,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a grown man, and we coach him like a grown man. He’s got some skills.” 

So far, Tate has enjoyed challenging the other quarterbacks during practice, but despite being a key component in Rodriguez’s reformed offense, he doesn’t feel much pressure to be starter.

“I can compete with these 18-, 19- and 20-year-old’s and show that I can do the same stuff they’re doing.” Tate said.  “It’s been fun, but I don’t want to get caught up in planning the future or looking too far ahead. I’m just enjoying the process right now. I’m here to help in whatever fashion, even if it’s with scout team. I’m just here to learn more and help the team get better every day.”

The adjustment Tate has made to the gridiron isn’t all due to athletic ability; in fact, most of it has been mental. 

“I have to learn the game again,” Tate said, “and everybody’s been super helpful to me, answering all my questions.”

Tate’s efforts as a student of the game have not gone unnoticed. During Pac-12 media day Rodriquez stated that Tate was an “inquisitive” guy. Last year’s starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins also commented on Tate’s mentality:

“I’m there trying to help him out as much as I can, but he’s just being a sponge,” Dawkins said. “That’s all you can ask for him to do is be a sponge, absorb everything you can and just learn.”

After this year’s camp, comparisons between Tate and other successful baseball-playing quarterbacks of his kind, like Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden, have already been made. However, despite all the attention his past career has brought, Tate is still just thankful to have the opportunity to play football here at Arizona. 

“It feels good to have somebody believe in you, even at this age,” Tate said, “and to just have a chance to go out there and play again.”

Follow Ian Tisdale on Twitter

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