Lars Tate, former Georgia football star and NFL running back, dies at 56

ATHENS, Ga. -- Lars Tate, part of a long line of Georgia running back greats and who went on to play three seasons in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Chicago, has died, the school announced Tuesday. He was 56.

Tate died late Monday in St. Petersburg, Florida, about a month after being diagnosed with throat cancer, his son, Donavan Tate, told the Athens Banner-Herald.

Tate led the Bulldogs in rushing in 1986 and 1987, finishing his college career with 3,107 yards -- the sixth most in school history. Herschel Walker and Nick Chubb were the only Georgia backs with more carries than Tate's 615 from 1984 to 1987.

He was a second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 1988 and led the team in rushing his first two seasons, totaling 1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns with 19 starts.

But Tate was cut by the Bucs ahead of the 1990 season, finishing out his career by playing sparingly in three games for the Bears.

Donavan Tate said his father was set to begin chemotherapy this week.

"It was kind of sudden," Tate told the Banner-Herald. "You just thought cancer was the next thing that he was going to overcome. Even in conversations with him, he was in good spirits."

A native of Indianapolis, Lars Tate headed south to sign with Georgia after also considering an offer from Big Ten powerhouse Michigan.

When he arrived in Athens, the shadow of Walker's brilliant career -- which included a national championship in 1980 and the Heisman Trophy in 1982 -- still loomed over the program.

But Tate proved to be a worthy successor to the school's running back legacy, which has since grown to include Rodney Hampton, Terrell Davis, Garrison Hearst, Knowshon Moreno and D'Andre Swift.

His son was the No. 3 pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres. But Donavan was plagued by injuries and never reached the big leagues, briefly giving college football a try when he joined Arizona as a quarterback.

In addition to Donavan, Lars Tate is survived by son Stephan, daughter Lauren and four grandchildren.