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.”