May 2, 2010
Former Michigan State offensive lineman Joe Tate is about to begin the biggest mission of his life.
Tate, a second lieutenant in the United State Marines Corps, deploys for Afghanistan later this week. Tate is a member of the 1st platoon, India Co., 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines (3/3).
Tate earned four letters at Michigan State from 2000-03 and started 29 games his last three years at left guard. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection in 2000 and 2001, he garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media in 2003 as the Spartans went 8-4 in the regular season and played in the Alamo Bowl against Nebraska. He made his mark off the field as well during his time in East Lansing, as he also was presented MSU's Community Service and Leadership Award.
After his Spartan career, Tate was in the NFL for three years on practice squads, including Jacksonville, Atlanta and St. Louis.
Tate came back to Michigan State and served as a strength and conditioning graduate assistant under head strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie in 2007 and 2008.
Tate's leadership skills during his time at MSU were evident to MSU head coach Mark Dantonio.
"Joe was an outstanding leader when he was here, both as a player and as a graduate assistant," said Dantonio. "He showed great leadership to our players in the weight room when he was working with Ken (Mannie).
"Joe Tate is about business and getting the job done. He's an extremely loyal person. We had him as an honorary captain for the Northwestern game (in 2008), and he did an outstanding job talking to our football team before that game.
"This is the ultimate act of selflessness - but that's Joe Tate. That's what you've come to expect in knowing him over the years. As I talked with him yesterday, he has an unassuming affect on a person. He's unassuming, yet strong. He really epitomizes everything we talk about as a Spartan. We wish him the best in his platoon in Afghanistan."
Prior to his departure to Afghanistan, Tate - stationed in Hawaii - took a few minutes to talk about his service to his country and the role Michigan State has played in his life.
Following your graduate assistant position as a strength coach at Michigan State, you had opportunities to coach, but you decided to enlist in the Marines. Why did you feel that was important to serve your country?
I have been given a great deal from the different communities that I have been apart of. I felt that this is my way to give back.
How did your experiences being a student-athlete at Michigan State and as a GA in strength & conditioning lead to your decision to enlist in the Marines?
Organized sports use examples from the military all the time to teach lessons that will help them succeed in reaching their goal. Hearing those stories led me to look into the military, more specifically, the Marine Corps.
In what way did playing football at Michigan State prepare you for the Marines?
Football has taken many principles from the military, like discipline and teamwork. With those similar foundations, I think my transition into the military was more fluid in some cases.
Where did that model of discipline instilled in you come from? Did working with Coach Dantonio or strength coach Ken Mannie bring it out in you, or has that been with you since your youth?
Coach Mannie has been the personification of discipline ever since I set foot in East Lansing as a teenager. He and the rest of the strength staff (Coach Tommy Hoke, Coach Mike Vorkapich) taught me that every day you must become better and earn the respect of others. That became even more apparent to me when I was a strength G.A. because I was around the strength staff more often.
Coach Dantonio made his presence known as soon as he became head coach at MSU. I had the opportunity to see that as a strength G.A. and how important that leadership is to an organization.
Can you describe any similarities between being in a platoon and being on a football team, the emphasis on teamwork and achieving a goal?
I think the principles of football are founded from the military. Tenets like discipline, knowing your job, and professionalism are the same.
Do you have any family history of serving in the United State Military, or are you the first one?
My uncle was in the Air Force for more than 25 years.
What do you want to accomplish and what do you want to learn about yourself during your time of service?
Ultimately, I want to be able to do my job to the best of my ability. If that happens, the other things take care of themselves.