Tony Tate excited to get back on the field

Christopher Bean, Sports editor

For the first time in program history, the Western Illinois football team is not playing in the fall. With COVID-19 pushing the Missouri Valley Conference schedule until the spring, the Leatherneck football team has had to do things they have never done before. Senior team leader Tony Tate explained what he and his teammates did to prepare before their season got canceled.

“Nothing really changed, the preparation stayed the same. Just went through a lot of meetings, the same protocol we would always follow, practicing as much as we could and following the rules and regulations of everything that’s been changing.” He went on to say that the team still goes through the same protocols preparing for the spring season, like working out in smaller groups and following the guidelines.

The Leathernecks are coming off a disappointing 1-11 season from a year ago. Tate played in all 12 games, scoring three touchdowns with 386 receiving yards on 37 receptions, good for 10.4 yards per catch. He also ran the ball 24 times, gaining 180 yards with an average of 14.8 yards per carry.

Tate almost didn’t have the opportunity to improve on his individual numbers and, more importantly, improve as a team. When he originally found out the season had been canceled, he said, “I’ve been working hard to try and get back on the field, and was just looking forward to my last season. I want to go out with a bang. You know, it’s frustrating but to know we have another opportunity to come back in the spring and seeing the schedule that we have.”

The Leathernecks will start their eight-game season on Feb. 19 against South Dakota. This will be the first time the Leathernecks will play in the spring. Tate said it will be a new challenge. “The overall feel because football is a fall sport and none of us are really used to playing competition games in the spring.” He went on to say, “It’s gonna be different playing games in the spring and combat some of the weather and the different things like the snow.”

With a shorter eight-game schedule consisting solely of conference games, the Leathernecks have to be on their A game coming out of the gates. Tate said, “I think we definitely have to be on point at all times and knowing we play three less games and it’s only a conference schedule, I definitely think there is more pressure.”

There is no one that wants to get on the field more than Tate and his teammates after only winning one game. They may have to wait a bit longer than expected, but they will get another opportunity for success. And Tate will get his last rodeo as a Leatherneck.