Lions Whitehead, Tate share dissimilar draft tales

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Tahir Whitehead

Tahir Whitehead’s recollection of the 2012 NFL Draft provides a good reason not to read into reports of pre-draft visits and workouts.

The Lions linebacker said he hadn’t really watch the draft in previous years, and even though he didn’t expect to be drafted, he kept it on in the living room TV at home in Newark, N.J.

Whitehead’s dream came true in the fifth round, but the former Temple standout had no reason to expect he would be going to Detroit.

“Spoke with them at the combine and that was about it,” he said last week. “(They) didn’t really show any interest, so I was like, all right, that came as a surprise to me.”

Whitehead’s experience reflects that of many players in the draft. Even though he went to the combine, he was skeptical that a team would take him because not everyone at the event gets drafted. And while many teams use their pre-draft visits to take a closer look at desirable prospects, there are many occasions in which teams take players with which they’ve had little contact because they didn’t have any question marks.

“I just sat there watching it with my family, like maybe something happens and maybe it doesn’t,” he said. “And when I got my name called, I was like, ‘Man, it’s like a dream come true.’”

The Lions play the Colts in the regular-season opener at 4:25 p.m. on FOX.

Emotional roller-coaster

While Whitehead’s draft weekend went better than expected, Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said his experience was a “letdown.”

Tate left Notre Dame a year early, but after an exceptional junior season with 93 catches for 1,496 yards and 18 total touchdowns, he thought he had a chance to be a first-round pick, in part because he saw analysts suggest it. So, Tate attended the draft in New York.

“I had expectations for myself,” he said. “I thought I was going to go first day, late, between 28th and 32nd overall. At the time, I knew if I didn’t go then I was going to be in the first six picks of the second round. And that did not happen.”

The Seahawks finally stopped Tate’s draft slide with the 60th overall pick in the second round.

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“I sat in that room with cameras on me for hours on the second day and started to get discouraged, started to question myself. But then I got that call from Seattle, from coach (Pete) Carroll, and right then and there, you totally forget about where you’re drafted. You then become thankful that you were drafted when you were and my mentality was just to prove those other teams — I was about to use a bad word — but those other teams wrong. Go fight your tail off.”

If Tate could do it all over again, he wouldn’t change anything about how his NFL career played out. He won a Super Bowl during his four seasons in Seattle and then signed a lucrative deal with the Lions in 2014.

However, there is one thing he’d change about that draft experience.

“First off, I would never go to the draft just because the letdown is just — if it doesn’t happen,” he said. “If I’m guaranteed like one, two, three, four, five then maybe I’ll go, but I would say just go enjoy your day; go do something that’s going to take your mind off of it. For me, if I could do it all over again, I would probably go golfing, or I’d go fishing. I would spend time with my family, friends, whoever. But sitting and staring at the TV is so nerve-wracking. It is so nerve-wracking. If I get drafted in something else, I’m not watching.”

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