Auden Tate's Latest Big Catch: 'You want to do something instead of just sitting'

A classic Auden Tate catch.
A classic Auden Tate catch.

Wide receiver Auden Tate, the last of the Bengals' three seventh-round draft choices of a few years ago, has always had the popularity of a first-round pick when it comes to wowing the fans with the 6-5, 230-pounder's monstrous Velcro hands at those Paul Brown Stadium training camps.

Here's another reason to cheer for him after he used those hands to give rather than snatch-and-grab.

Late Sunday afternoon he got a text from one of his workout buddies in his hometown of Tampa, Fla., Bills wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud. An hour later he had gloved his golden hands to pick up shards of glass, chunks of ceilings and bits of doors with McCloud and another Tampa guy, Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers.

"There were about 10 of us. Ray-Ray's cousin gave us some garbage bags and then some other people came over to help us. There were about 20, 25 of us," Tate said Monday.

Tate had just emerged from his daily Zoom meetings with quarterback Joe Burrow ("He's a rookie in name but he doesn't come off like a rookie") along with the other quarterbacks and wide receivers when he talked about his efforts to clean up a strip mall near the University of South Florida campus hit by Saturday night looting.

"I didn't want to sit still. There's so much stuff going on. You don't want to sit still," Tate said. "You want to do something instead of just sitting and watching on Twitter or something."

Tate and his friends sifted through the husk of Champs Sports, a sporting goods store. They also went next door to the Saigon Bay Vietnamese Restaurant, which also suffered damages.

"Everything was burned out," Tate said.

McCloud's text came at an opportune time. Tate had just left that day's service at the Force of Life Church in North Tampa, where he heard the sermon from the pastor. His father.

"We've always preached responsibility starts with a person. Not outside of them," Heanon Tate said of his most recent sermon. "We challenged everybody to take their goodwill and put it to use for more than just posting and talking about things and actually be a solution."

Or as his son remembered it: "He talked about leaving this a better place than we found it."

Heanon Tate is a story in himself. He's also a former athlete (he won five conference titles in the 110 hurdles) at South Carolina State and the University of South Carolina) as well as a singer and actor who had a six-month run Off Broadway ("The Wizard of Education") as well as gigs in a couple of TV series, "Homeland," and "Army Wives." He doesn't have the lead in "The Preacher," but he's got a significant role in the series he hopes is picked up in 2021.

But those aren't his favorite roles.

"Most little boys dream about being professional athletes," Heanon Tate said. "I dreamt about having a family. That was my biggest goal in life."

At 48, he did it so well he's doing it again. Auden Tate's younger sister is running track this fall at Texas Tech and last year his parents adopted siblings four and seven years old.

They were three of the things Auden Tate was thinking about as he walked out of church Sunday.

"I've got a younger brother and sisters and I've got to leave it better for them," Tate said.

On Monday, Tate rejoined McCloud and two sophomore Steelers wide receivers from Tampa, Diontae Johnson and Deon Cain, to continue their off-season workouts. They'd love to do what their workout partner did in his second season last year when Tate broke out with 40 catches for quiet 14.4 yards per catch, some of the eye-popping lean-and-stretch variety.

"Working on everything. Trying to get better at everything," Tate said. "My speed, staying low, getting my blocks better. Everything can be better."

All he can do is look at his fellow receivers or talk to them. But even that's got him excited. Multiple 1,000-yard receivers in A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd. A top 10 pick in John Ross. The 40-catch seventh-rounder. The 253rd pick in the draft.

"I think it's kind of how it is when I came in. A lot of competition," Tate said. "If anything, that's what's going to make us better and give us a bigger jump. Everybody is a good person. So there's no drama. Everybody is just grinding and trying to be better."

Rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins, the Bengals' next pick after Burrow, has famously said the Bengals were his favorite team growing up in Tennessee because of Green. Tate also grew up following Green because their towns were 100 miles apart in South Carolina, Tate in Irmo and Green in Summerville. When the Tates moved to Tampa when he was 14, his guys in the NFL were Green and Dez Bryant.

Tate's style is closer to Bryant's big bodying, but he definitely has Green's modest, reserved personality. Tate's middle school team beat Summerville Middle before he moved and the high school he would have attended has gone on to dominate Summerville and South Carolina.

But Tate hasn't mentioned it to the man they call, "Dream."

"Nah. He was gone and I was gone," Tate said. "But we kid. We joke. That's the nice thing about this receiver corps. We can all joke and play and there's no hard feelings."

Think of this. Tate has three inches and ten pounds on the 6-2, 220-pound Bryant and they've got the same kind of box-out game.

"He was just so physical," Tate said. "I just loved the way he would go up and attack the ball. With the fade ball in the red zone, he was just unstoppable."

Tate thinks Higgins is picking it up well for a rookie and he chalks that up to the playbook.

"The way our offense is set up," Tate said. "It's good because he can learn it fast. I feel like we're all in a good position even though the Covid stuff is going on."

And, oh yeah, that other rookie. Burrow. Tate says he and the receivers have agreed to get together and throw on their own before training camp

"We're just trying to figure out where and when. Soon," Tate said. "He's real cool. He's real assertive. He talks up. He's not a normal rookie that comes in kind of shy. He comes in real sure of who he is. You can see his confidence."

But Tate's hands had already done the biggest work of the week even before the Zooms and routes began.

"I'm always proud of him. Ever since he was little, he always had that attitude. Trying to help someone," said Heanon Tate of his role of a lifetime. "We already had a lot to work with."