SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame coaches can't help but smile when they talk about receiver Golden Tate.
It's not just his 10 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games, though everyone's certainly happy about that.
Tate just cracks them up.
``He's a comical kid. He has a lot of personality,'' offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said. ``I love him. I just sit there and laugh at him all the time.''
During a practice before the season began, Tate caught a slant pass and raced past the defenders before he suddenly stopped at the 50-yard line and just stared.
Haywood blew the whistle and asked him what he was doing. Tate told him he was thinking about what he would do when he scored a touchdown.
``He's a different bird,'' Haywood said.
lead against Michigan. He ran over to the student section and stared for a moment, then ran back to the sideline.
``He looks at me and he says: 'I cannot be stopped!''' coach Charlie Weis said, laughing heartily again at the story. ``I couldn't help but bust out laughing when he said it.''
Funny thing is, Weis thought he was joking. He wasn't.
``That's how I felt in the moment,'' Tate said.
Who can blame Tate for enjoying his moment after last season's struggles? Last season Tate caught three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against Purdue, leaping above defenders on each one, exciting Irish fans everywhere. They thought the struggling Irish had finally found a spark.
They were quickly disappointed. Tate had just three catches for 27 yards the rest of the season. So why didn't the Irish coaching staff go to Tate more often? Because the former high school running back had no idea what he was doing.
``You ever hear that phrase, running around like a chicken with his head cut off? That was Golden,'' Haywood said.
Tate admits he was overwhelmed. Everything was a blur. He was in such a hurry he would break routes off five or six yards too early. Most of his catches came when all he had to do was run down the field on a go route. Even on his first catch against Purdue he ran the wrong route.
much he's improved. He ran seven strides toward Michigan safety Stevie Brown in the center of the field as though he were going to block him, then at the last moment turned up field and split the cornerbacks.
He raced down the field, turned his head to his right, saw the ball coming, caught the ball at the 5-yard line and ran in for the touchdown.
He said last year if he had tried the same play he would have turned away from the safety too soon - if he ran toward him at all - tipping off the pass play.
Tate, who also plays center field for the Irish baseball team, showed last year he had great hands, that he could jump high and he had blazing speed. He spent the offseason working on his routes and studying tape of former Notre Dame standout Rocket Ismail.
``I want to be just like him,'' he said. ``I study his film and see what he does on the kickoff return and catching and running the ball.''
Now that Tate has a better idea of how to run routes, the Irish believe they have a playmaker. He already has catches of 60, 48, 35 and 28 yards this season. But he's still learning.
``You just have to suffer through the growing pains. Because he might blow a route here, maybe blow a route there, may not convert on this play. But so what?'' Haywood said. ``He's going to make plays, so you just keep on getting him the ball.''
And just keep on smiling.

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