Kyle Van Noy arrived in Detroit following last year's NFL draft and almost immediately the connection between the highly touted rookie from BYU and Golden Tate, the team's biggest free-agent acquisition last season, began.
Van Noy peppered Tate with questions and the two found they had a lot in common. Even as Tate had a breakout season with the Lions while Van Noy missed half the season due to injury, the friendship began to develop.
This sometimes came the night before games.
“We get to the hotel early and play FIFA,” Tate told ESPN.com during an interview promoting the Call of Duty Endowment helping veterans find jobs. “It might sound silly, but we’re spending time with guys on the team. We’re spending time outside of our facility. We’re doing something other than talking football.
“When you’re spending time with guys, you get to know guys and their interests on and off the field and they get a feeling for who you are and what you represent and what you stand for.”
That Tate was coming off a Super Bowl win with the Seahawks at the time likely didn’t hurt, either.
So players, especially younger ones trying to break into the league, had questions. Those relationships Tate began building this season are what stood out to the 26-year-old the most when he thought about a 2014 season that was one of the more successful in Detroit Lions history.
He is trying to add to the foundation of those relationships with Van Noy and others started when he arrived in Detroit. Having beaten the average longevity for an NFL career along with a Super Bowl win and Pro Bowl appearance gave him the hope he could pass on what he he learned.
“I think the biggest thing now after being a young player and I guess being an old player now is what can you give back to the young guys,” Tate said. “It’s OK to accomplish all those things on the field but I think as you get older you grow to think, ‘What can I give back to these guys? What are they going to look back five, six years from now and really remember?’
“These games? Or an older guy taking them under his wing and really teaching them the game and how to be a professional? That’s what I want to do.”
This is similar to what happened to Tate when he was a young player in Seattle, when running back Michael Robinson sat down with him multiple times to connect with him along with advice from Sidney Rice.
Besides Van Noy, Tate mentioned receivers Jeremy Ross, Andrew Peacock and TJ Jones as players he has tried to answer questions for and help out even if it comes at the cost of probably losing to the self-proclaimed "FIFA champ in the room right now."
He knows his teammates might disagree. He’ll take it, though. Competition on the field makes Tate the player he is – and one of the things the Lions could use rubbing off on other players in the locker room as Tate makes his presence stronger in his second year with the franchise.