There was the flip in the end zone to beat Minnesota and the acrobatics in Dallas earlier this year. There were the touchdown celebrations — from grabbing a cheerleader’s pompoms to some of the coordinated efforts last year.
But more than anything, Golden Tate played with a passion the Detroit Lions needed. It was similar to the guy he replaced in 2014, Nate Burleson. They both played with the same sort of swagger, the same intensity and confidence.
And for four-plus seasons in Detroit, Tate was that for the Lions.
Every year, the Lions knew what to expect from him. At least 90 catches, close to, if not more than, 1,000 yards. A guy who would play every week and turn small catches into big gains. A guy who would play with a different level of emotion than some of his teammates.
In a little over four years, Tate made a massive impact on the franchise. He’ll leave seventh in team history in receiving yards (4,741), fifth in receptions (416) and 15th in receiving touchdowns (22), and he was the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions per game with 5.9 — half a reception more per game than his running mate in the Lions’ receiving corps his first two years with the club, Calvin Johnson.
Beyond his on-field work, Tate was lauded off the field in Detroit. He was one of the more active Lions players in the community, working with local veterans on a yearly basis. He was also one of the more well-liked Lions players because his personality oozed out of his uniform and into the fan base.
They could see the passion he brought, that he was an emotional player who sometimes would get carried away — he’d even admit that. But it was that passion that endeared him to Detroit and part of why the move to trade him was so surprising.
That was the case for Tate after his arrival in Detroit during the offseason of 2014, the first big splash of former coach Jim Caldwell’s tenure. He would frequently tell the story about how he flew into Detroit during a snowstorm and ended up signing the deal before he left. It’s a story that brought him more fans in a city where he played so well. Nine of the top 10 receiving games of his career were in Detroit. He made his only Pro Bowl with the Lions.
And he proved to be worth every dollar of his contract — one that will now play out in Philadelphia.