Linden's Tate ready for rivalry game
Sat. October 27, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Barry Allen
BIRMINGHAM | Maurice Tate might have played high school football in a small community, but he knows a lot about big-time football games.
Tate was a standout linebacker at Linden High School and played on teams that won 35 games and two region championships over a three-year period. He played in the AHSAA playoffs three straight years, reaching the Class A semifinals in 2008.
One of his high school teammates was Sean Richardson, a three-year starter at safety for the Vanderbilt Commodores who now plays with the Green Bay Packers. The two talk at least once a week, with Tate getting as much advice he can from the NFL rookie.
"I talk to him all the time," said Tate, now at Alabama State. "We talk a lot before the games. He tells me to go out every day and work hard. He tells me to be the football player and let the coaches coach. It’s all about hard work. He tells me to do everything I can possibly do and the rest will take care of itself."
Tate kept a close eye on Richardson during his career with the Commodores and watches him even more closely now that he is in the NFL.
"That is my goal, to make it to the NFL," Tate said. "I watch him every chance I get. I watched every game I could when he played at Vanderbilt and now I watch him play for the Packers. I saw several of his preseason games. I keep up with him a lot."
Tate hopes to show off the knowledge he has gained from Richardson today when the Alabama State Hornets (4-3, 4-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) face the Alabama A&M Bulldogs (6-1, 5-1) in the 71st annual Magic City Classic at Legion Feld. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m., and the game will be shown on a tape-delayed basis by ESPNU beginning at 10:30 p.m. tonight.
Tate understands the rivalry. He was recruited by Alabama A&M and plays for Alabama State. He knows today’s game is for bragging rights.
"It is exciting," he said. "This is our Iron Bowl. It’s like Auburn and Alabama. We all know one another. We have played together and against each other for a long time. That makes it easy to get up for a game like this. Alabama A&M is our big rival."
The Hornets trail the Bulldogs by one game in the SWAC Eastern Division standings. A win keeps Alabama State in the hunt for a return trip to Legion Field for the SWAC Championship Game on Dec. 8. A loss will almost certainly eliminate the Hornets from championship contention.
"We are at the point that if we lose this game we can’t go to the SWAC Championship Game," Tate said. "If we win this game we are still in the hunt, and that is our goal."
Win or lose, Tate said playing on ESPNU is good exposure for both teams.
"This is a chance for us to show that the SWAC has a lot of talent and the SWAC has some really good football teams," Tate said. "This will do a lot for a football program. It is great exposure. It gives some of our guys a chance to show their skills and that they can play in the NFL. It gives us the exposure to showcase our talents."
Alabama State will play a total of four games on ESPNU or ESPN2 this season. The Hornets opened the season in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge against Bethune-Cookman on ESPN2. Their home game with Arkansas-Pine Bluff was televised by ESPNU. Alabama State will close the season on ESPNU in the annual Turkey Day Classic against Tuskegee.
"Not a lot of people get the chance to play Division I football and play on television," Tate said. "So when we are on television, everyone in Linden is watching. It is a big deal for me and a big deal for Linden. For them to see us on ESPNU gives small towns like Linden a lot pride."