Auburn’s Tate lets NFL combine numbers stand

Ben Tate spent most of Auburn’s pro day watching, relaxing and
trying to stay loose.

The running back was content to let his numbers from the NFL
combine stand, and why not? Tate, whose strong senior season was
overshadowed by Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, turned
in some of the better stats among running backs at the combine in
Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago.

“I think a lot of people were surprised, a lot of the scouts
and a lot of you guys in the media,” Tate said Tuesday. “But I
knew what I could do the whole time. I’ve been telling y’all I was
fast, but no one really wanted to listen to me. My coaches knew,
and my family knew.”

Now the NFL scouts do, too. Tate turned in the third-fastest
40-yard time (4.43 seconds) among running backs, behind C.J.
Spiller and Jahvid Best.

He was second in the vertical leap, broad jump and 20-yard
shuttle run. His 26 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press
tied for tops with Lonyae Miller.

The solid performance allowed Tate to participate only in
position drills at the end of pro day, working with St. Louis Rams
running backs coach Sylvester Croom and catching passes from Chris
Todd. He said he never considered skipping Auburn’s pro day
“because the coaches still want to see you compete.”

Other players working out for pro scouts on Tuesday included
defensive end/linebacker Antonio Coleman, cornerback Walt McFadden
and quarterback Chris Todd. Coleman was the only other Auburn
player invited to the combine.

“When you work as hard as I’ve been working, just to go in and
do well at the combine, that makes pro day a little bit easier,”
Tate said. “I can sit back and watch those other guys doing those
drills. I was even recording some of them. I had fun at the
beginning but toward the end I had to start getting focused because
it was my time doing position drills.”

Tate rushed for 1,362 yards as a senior in his only year as the
fulltime starter, more than doubling the 664 yards he had a junior.
Late in the season, he attracted some attention by saying he was
the best back in the state, not Ingram.

Tate still finds motivation from any remaining doubters after
leading Auburn in rushing the past three years.

“It drives me, it keeps me working hard,” he said. “I don’t
mind being the underdog. One day the underdog will be on top.

“I think I’ve been underestimated my whole career.”

He said he had to trim some weight after Auburn’s win over
Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

“I lost some of that fat from the bowl game,” Tate said. “I
pigged out down there and got to the bowl game and weighed about
220-something. I’ve never been that heavy before.”

Most projections have Tate as a likely middle-rounds NFL pick,
but he preferred not to say what kind of feedback he has been
getting or what teams he has already set up meetings with.

Tate’s strong senior year and combine performance can’t hurt,
though.

“My junior year was a horrible year, and I came in and worked
hard this past year and all the hard work has been paying off,” he
said. “I had a great combine and today I did a great job. I can’t
really complain. The only thing I can control is what I can do and
throughout the process so far I think I’ve done pretty well.”