Pickens Academy senior Hugh Pate poses with his family Wednesday morning at a signing ceremony to celebrate his decision to play football at Birmingham-Southern. Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
April 12, 2018 10:59:31 AM
CARROLLTON, Ala. -- Wade Goodman has known football holds a special place in Hugh Pate's heart for a long time.
The Pickens Academy football coach recalls seeing Pate when he was in middle school and he was a little too small to be on the field every snap.
But Goodman has watched Pate mature from that "runt" who struggled to compete against his bigger peers to a 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior lineman who controls his position thanks to a passion for the game that drives him to be the best he can be.
"Football is everything to him and his family as well," Goodman said. "He didn't get to play a whole lot in middle school. His parents asked me what he could do to play more and I told them to wait a few years for him to grow and mature and take off.
"He has the mentality of a football player. We don't have a whole lot of them anymore. He plays with a lot of passion. You have to play with passion to play football."
That passion helped Pate realize his dream to play football at the next level. He celebrated accomplishing that goal Wednesday in a signing ceremony in front of teammates, classmates, and family members at the school.
Pate said he sent out a bunch of emails once he realized his junior year he wanted to play football in college. He said he met with a coach from Birmingham-Southern at Jack's Restaurant in Reform, Alabama, and liked what he heard. He praised the efforts of Birmingham-Southern through the recruiting process, and said the coaches monitored his progress on Hudl, a video service that compiles highlights of players.
"I feel like I have always had really good coaches who have taught me a lot of stuff," Pate said. "I took to it every time. Coach Wade has pushed me harder than I have ever been pushed in my life. I don't think athletically I would be where I am now if it wasn't for him and for coach (Josh) Thacker, my coach before him."
Pate has been playing football at Pickens Academy since he was in the fourth grade. He has taken No. 75 every year in honor of his father, Lin, who also played at Pickens Academy. Hugh said he learned to love football from his father, who didn't do on to play in college because he had to go to work.
Goodman said the love for football has driven Pate to work hard to improve. He said Pate is one of the strongest players on the team, which should serve him well when he tries to carve out playing time at the next level. Goodman said Pate's versatility to play on the offensive and defensive lines should help him at Birmingham-Southern, too. Pate also has played fullback and linebacker.
"His motor never stopped," Goodman said. "It was like the more the other team talked, the better he played. ... He just had that passion to play football. It is dying breed. You don't have a whole lot of that anymore, but he loves it. He played hard every snap."
Hugh said his brothers, Haeden, 15, and Harrison, 12, share his love for the game. Hugh's brothers are with him in some of the 18 pictures on the tables throughout the auditorium. You can almost chart Hugh's growth from table to table as he gets bigger in each picture. He hopes to take his father's love for the game and his admiration for defensive lineman Howie Long to Birmingham-Southern to make an impression.
"My dad means a lot to me. He is probably my best friend, so I want to carry out his dream and his legacy," said Hugh, when asked why he wears No. 75.
Pate, who also played on the school's boys basketball team and competes its powerlifting squad, said he remembers wanting to play football in college even before he started playing the sport in the fourth grade. He said he has heard plenty of stories from his father, Lin, about his playing days. Hugh said he hopes to create some of the same kind of memories at Birmingham-Southern.
"He is the main reason I fell in love playing football," Hugh Pate said of his father. "If he had never shown me football, I probably never even would have taken to it. I am sure I would have played, but I am not sure I would have taken to it like I have."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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