When Brandon Tate got a look at the Buffalo Bills' schedule, his eyes immediately focused on this week.
Tate, who joined the Bills shortly before the start of the regular season after being cut by the Cincinnati Bengals, returns to the city he spent five years in Sunday.
He does so ranked ninth in the NFL in punt returns with a 10.2-yard average and eighth in kick returns, with a 23.0-yard average.
In this week's "Getting to Know," Tate talks about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry, who inspired him growing up and what the secret to a good return is.
The Buffalo News: Tell us about where you're from.
Brandon Tate: "I’m from Burlington, North Carolina, played college ball at UNC-Chapel Hill, so I’m a Carolina guy through and through."
BN: You won a state championship in basketball in high school. Which sport was your first love?
BT: "I played shooting guard, so yeah man, it really was basketball. Football caught on for me right when I got my offer. That’s when I really started to take it serious."
BN: Did you ever give any thought to trying to play both sports with the Tar Heels?
BT: "Not really. That would have been pretty cool, but I was just trying to focus on school and football."
BN: What's the best part of the Duke-UNC rivalry?
BT: "Everything. Me being from the state, too, for me it was a personal thing. To me, it’s a big deal for the whole state. I always liked North Carolina. Of course, Duke, you had to be super smart to get in there!"
BN: You returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in a game against Duke in 2006. Is that one of your favorite college memories?
BT: "That’s one of them. The crazy thing is I actually had three return touchdowns that game. They called one back on a penalty. My senior year against McNeese State was a good one, too. (In that game, Tate set a school record with 397 all-purpose yards on just 11 touches. The total was the second most in ACC history. Tate had 93 receiving yards, 106 rushing yards, 142 punt return yards and 56 kick return yards for 36.1 yards per touch.)"
BN: What’s the secret to a successful return?
BT: "Trusting the other 10 guys and having everybody being on the same page and having one goal in mind. Don’t worry about who gets the glory, because it’s for everybody. It’s like here — I’m just trusting the other guys and everything’s going good so far."
BN: Have you always been a returner since you started playing?
BT: "Always. When I was younger, I used to watch Dante Hall, the short dude from Kansas City. He’d throw up the X when he scored. I’d watch him and, it was always something I thought I could do."
BN: So you had to have this game circled on the calendar, right?
BT: "Yeah man, of course! But, really it has to be just another game. For us, our situation, it’s a must-win for us. We got to go out there and take it one play at a time and we’ll see what will happen."
BN: Do you have a favorite return?
BT: "Probably against Notre Dame my sophomore year, I remember that one. I faked a handoff to Quinton Person. In the pros, one I really like was against Miami when I was with the Patriots, that was a long kickoff return (103 yards)."
BN: You majored in communications in college. Do you know what you'd like to do after you're done playing?
BT: "Hopefully broadcasting, but if not I’d like to open up my own training facility for kids. In the offseason I try to get a group of kids together to do some things. That’s something I think I want to do, so in the summers I try it out to see what I'm good at and what I need to work on."
BN: "Do you look at yourself as a return specialist first and then a receiver, or the other way around?"
BT: "I want to say receiver, but if I’m being honest, I’m a return man first, and anything else after that is extra. The way the league works, the more you can do, the longer you stay around, so I’ll do whatever they want me to do."
BN: When you missed the game against the Seahawks in Week Nine, it ended a streak of 104 straight games played, which ranked second in the NFL among receivers. Did you realize that it had been that long?
BT: "When I found out I was going to be out, I told my wife, ‘man it’s been a long time since I haven’t played.’ I didn’t know exactly how many games it was, though. It’s all right though. I guess I’ve just got to start it back over."
BN: Was it weird watching that game?
BT: "It didn’t really hit me until I turned on the TV that night. I’m like, 'I’m supposed to be there.' It don’t feel right being on the couch."