Khalil Tate runs, throws, tweets, and, um, talks. Well, the latter was for the first time to the local media since fall practice started and less than three weeks from Arizona’s first game.
“Get better and stay consistent,” Tate said about practice to date in what turned out to be a 12-minute interview that covered an array of subjects in as much as it’s not clear when the media will have access to him again before the first game on Sept. 1 vs. Brigham Young.
The UA said it will not hold the annual media day – a first in forever – to the local media, saying securing a definitive date and time was an issue as well as all the construction in and around the football area have created problems.
Read what you want into that, but for the next few weeks Tate, a Heisman candidate, might not be made available for some time.
But, he said he’s fine with how the team – school – has handled his Heisman hopes.
“They’ve done a lot,” he said. “They’ve put me in a great position to get a lot of exposure. I don’t pay a lot of attention to that but it’s something I’m aware of that.”
In the meantime, he’s been on one of Sports Illustrated’s regional covers and is touted as one of college football’s premier players.
“It means a lot, growing up that’s something that a lot of younger athletes want to do a lot,” he said when asked what it meant to him and his family about the cover of SI. “You want to get that exposure, but it also helps the university, showing we’re also a (good) university also.”
He found out about a month ago, not knowing the full extent of the reason why SI was in town to do a story. He later found out he’d be on a cover, deciding not to tell anyone – including his parents who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
“That’s God,” he said, smiling. He later said it was his present to them.
“My dad was excited, he was like, ‘why didn’t you tell me?’’’ Tate said, “I was trying to keep it a secret.’
Last week, UA coach Kevin Sumlin said he felt the SI cover was more of a team thing, given they all helped in helping Tate succeed. Tate agreed.
“Accolades come with winning,” he said. “As long as you take it game by game (and you) win each and every game everything will work out how it’s supposed to.”
He’s prepared for the season like a winner should. He’s returned more serious and knows when to pull punches and when to be the leader. He’s returned in shape and continues to stay that way. But isn’t that what a Heisman hopeful should do?
“I’ve progressed a lot,” he said. “My team getting has helped me get better. Them keeping their energy up helps me keep my energy up.”
And that’s on both sides of the ball. Or so it appears.
UA sophomore linebacker Kylan Wilborn said he likes what he sees in Tate.
“He is what he is – he’s a baller,” said Wilborn, who sees or goes against Tate every day in practice. “He makes plays. He’s running around, throwing the ball and doing what he does best, making everyone’s job on the defense a lot harder.’