The comparisons have begun because they’re easy to draw.
Drew Tate as Dave Dickenson. The Calgary Stampeders’ current quarterback as prime protégé of the team’s former quarterback turned offensive co-ordinator.
It makes sense in a lot of ways as Tate isn’t big, isn’t flashy, plays a whatever-it-takes brand of football and is exceedingly accurate with his throws, as was Dickenson in his day.
But ask the Stampeders offensive coach about Tate and the comparisons go a different route: Drew as Drew Brees, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.
That Dickenson dares mention Tate and Brees in the same context speaks to how highly the Stampeders value Tate and what he’s doing as the replacement to veteran pivot Henry Burris. Since being named the starter, Tate has won both his games, including a road junket against the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes.
Next comes Saturday’s encounter against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a matchup with first-place connotations for both sides, and Dickenson is expecting more from the 27-year-old quarterback with the familiar style.
“He’s very accurate, that’s the No. 1 thing I look for. He’s been hitting guys in stride. Your big plays come when you hit guys in stride,” Dickenson said. “His technique and the way he plays remind me of Drew Brees. They’re both Texas guys and they have similar throwing motions. They don’t run but they have active, quick feet that can buy them time. People may criticize their throwing, but they both have strong enough arms to do what’s needed in their offence.”
Dickenson was a teammate of Brees in San Diego, when they both played for the Chargers in 2001. Tate knew of Brees from their Texas upbringing. Tate followed Brees’s high-school career and had hoped to be recruited by Purdue University, where Brees starred for the Boilermakers.
“They had this elite quarterback camp at Purdue and I went,” Tate said. “Brees was in his senior year, and I was in my sophomore year of high school. He was part of the camp. That’s where I got a lot of my passing technique, from watching him.”
Tate, who played high-school football for his stepfather, Dick Olin, went to the University of Iowa and led the Hawkeyes to the 2005 Capital One Bowl. On the last play of the game, Tate threw a 56-yard touchdown pass against Louisiana State for the win. It earned him free-agent offers from the St. Louis Rams, later the Saskatchewan Roughriders and, finally, the Stampeders in 2009.
All it took for him to become the starter was a Burris slump and a will to make the best of his opportunity.
“I don’t believe in mediocrity. I don’t like to lose,” Tate said, admitting he also doesn’t like to talk to his teammates when they’re on the sidelines during games. Some of that has to do with his competitive nature and needing time to concentrate; the rest with how he was groomed.
“When I’m playing, I don’t like to talk to anyone other than the coach. I played for my dad and he never wore a head set. He only talked to me and called the plays. I guess that’s where I got it from.”
Looking to the Blue Bombers, Tate sees another test in his quest to become an established quarterback, both in the regular season and playoffs.
“Their defence, all-around, has speed and is very aggressive. The guys in the back end are small but fast. The people in the box [the front seven]are extremely physical. It’s definitely a challenge for us,” he said. “In the big games, you have to make plays.”
So far, the other Texas-born quarterback named Drew is managing his share and making them count.