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‘More professional’ Arizona QB Khalil Tate embracing spotlight, leadership role in junior season

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the past few weeks he’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a central figure at Pac-12 Media Day. On Monday, Khalil Tate finally met with local reporters for the first time since the Arizona Wildcats wrapped up spring practice in mid-April.

The soft-spoken junior quarterback was peppered with questions about his national exposure, including being an early Heisman Trophy candidate, his growth and maturity (despite not turning 20 until January) and his relationship with new coach Kevin Sumlin.

Here’s what Tate had to say after Arizona’s ninth preseason practice leading up to the 2018 opener against BYU on Sept. 1:

On being a Sports Illustrated cover boy, and the special timing of that cover release:

“Growing up, that’s something that a lot of younger athletes want,” Tate said. “I found out about a month ago they were coming. When (the cover) came out I was ecstatic. I didn’t tell my parents at all, so when it came out (on Aug. 7) that was my parents’ 25th anniversary. I think that’s something that … that’s God. My dad was just excited, he was like, ‘why didn’t you tell me?’”

On the difference between now and this point in training camp a year ago:

“I’m a starter now, and I know that,” Tate said. “I think that’s something I’ve embraced. It’s something I’ve tried to get better (at) each and every day.”

On becoming more of a leader and what he’s had to do to make that happen:

“Just being more professional,” Tate said. “On the field, being all serious. And in the locker room, joking around here and there. On the field, just making sure the team knows I’m not playing any games. That’s what all good teams need. Teams that don’t do well, they don’t have that strong leadership.”

On still being one of the younger guys:

“I like to think I’m kind of wise, I like to think I have a lot of knowledge,” Tate said. “There are a lot of (high school) seniors that are 19 and I’m about to graduate in the next year or so.”

On his ‘humorous’ relationship with Sumlin, who couldn’t lure him to Texas A&M:

“There’s not a relationship like ours around the country, just being the fact he recruited me out of high school and I was going to go there and I ended up not,” Tate said. “It’s all funny how we end up in the same place. He understands the situation. Now we can’t complain about it.”

On turning pro, which he can do after this season:

“I’m taking it day by day,” Tate said. “I’m not focusing on the future, because when you think too far ahead that’s when things don’t go your way.”

On the inspiration he gets from his grandmother, who has twice survived breast cancer:

“That really just speaks on how I am as a player, not letting anything knock me down,” Tate said. “Breast cancer, that’s something serious. Me getting a little nagging injury, that’s something I can get over.”

Khalil Tate’s media silence has been broken. Here’s his full interview. Enjoy!

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, August 13, 2018