For Yolanda Tate, the past 15 years have turned into a nonstop sports life.
Early on, she doubled up in football. High school contests at Pope John Paul II followed pee wee games as she watched her sons play — Golden, now 23 and playing in the NFL, and Wesley, 21, who will be a junior back/receiver at Vanderbilt.
But on April 4, 1995, she literally doubled up when she gave birth to twin girls, Breanna, who is three minutes older, and Deanna Tate, who these days are making their mark in track and field. The two are juniors at Brentwood Academy.
Equally proud of all her children, the single mother of four rarely misses any of their games or track meets, though because of the distance, her trips to Seattle to see Golden play for the Seahawks are limited.
Her attention in recent weeks, of course, has been on the girls and the track and field season. She smiles when asked about how the 17-year-olds have progressed.
“You just never know what path in which God will direct you,” Yolanda said. “To think I’d have twin daughters who have come to love track, that’s a blessing.
“There are slight some differences. Breanna is a bit more hyper; Deanna is more laidback. Breanna was born at 1:47 p.m. and Deanna at 1:50 on a Monday afternoon. When you’re a toddler, you don’t know what path one will follow. I have just tried to do what was best for them.”
Without a doubt, both share the same athletic genes as their brothers, direct from their father, Golden Tate II, a former star wide receiver at Tennessee State. The Colts drafted the patriarch in the fifth round of the1984 draft. He and Yolanda divorced 12 years ago and he lives out of state.
The first-born, Golden III, undisputedly was one of the greatest athletes in recent Nashville area high school history.
After he graduated from JPII, where he was twice named the TSSAA Division II Mr. Football (2005, 2006), he signed with Notre Dame. There, he became an All-American split end and ultimately one of the Irish’s all-time leading receivers. The Seahawks drafted him in 2010, and he signed a four-year, $3.2 million contract that summer.
“I could tell when he was about 11 that he was faster than some of the other boys and very talented,” Yolanda Tate said. “I could tell the same about Wesley.”
Wesley, who also had an excellent career at JPII (he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his high school career), earned a scholarship to Vanderbilt.
In high school, he was in the school chorus and played piano. At Vanderbilt, he has battled injuries and adapted to position changes.
For Yolanda, attending Commodores games is easy. Traveling to Notre Dame for Golden’s games on Saturdays was a different matter. Still, she managed to take along Wesley and the twins … short a little sleep, of course.
“After Wesley finished his game on Friday night, we hit the road at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning to make the trip, about six hours,’’ she said. “After the game, we would return home.”
Now it’s the twins who demand a certain amount of attention.
“When the girls moved over to Brentwood Academy, they started to make their name in track,” Yolanda Tate said. “They waited their turn [as sophomores] behind some of the older and more experienced girls, and now it’s their turn to shine. [Trainer] Jim Hill has been great for them to work with. Coach [Cathy] Cheeseman is good to work with, too.”
In the recent Great Eight meet at Vanderbilt, Breanna and Deanna finished second and third, respectively, in the 100-meter dash. Breanna won the 200, and Deanna was third.
Normally, Breanna runs slightly ahead of Deanna in the traditional sprints, and Deanna is slightly faster than Breanna in the 400. Both are key legs on the Eagle relay teams.
“They are very close as sisters, but they are extremely competitive with each other,” Yolanda said. “Each wants to be the best. It goes back and forth.
“What is important to me is their grades. They are making all A’s and B’s for which I am proud. We need to keep everything in line, trust God, stay humble, and compete passionately in whatever endeavor we’re into.”
With another Mother’s Day having just passed, Yolanda Tate remains — in some ways — just another soccer … make that football/track and field mom.
“As a single mother, I am trying to do everything possible to support my children,” she said.
That means plenty of time spent in bleachers throughout Middle Tennessee and, now courtesy of her sons, the region and even the country. It also means she worries.
“From the time I’ve known her, Yolanda was very supportive of everything we tried to do,” former JPII football coach Jeff Brothers, now head coach at Nashville Christian School, said. “She’s very conscious of the goals of all her children.
“A funny story came early on when she expressed concern about Golden and the contact he would receive in football. We had him put on all this equipment where she said he looked like an astronaut. We eventually took off all the extra equipment, and I think her fears were alleviated.”
Yolanda says the boys remain in touch and very interested in their sisters’ athletics progress.
“They constantly text [Brianna and Deanna], keeping up with them, offering encouragement,’’ she said. “They love each other. We are a very close family.
“I tried to teach them early on to trust the Lord, put Him first, and be a good teammate. I’m hoping that they progress as their older brothers did and be able to receive a DI scholarship, make their dreams come true.
“Athletics and competing are very important. But God and studies come first, there’s life after sports. I’ve tried to keep them grounded.”
At 47 years old, she’s already lived a pretty full sports life.