EDMOND — Lindell Tate was never ready to finish his story.
On Wednesday, as football players across the nation sign their letters of intent with various universities, the Edmond North running back's recovery story continues.
Tate, months after undergoing surgery on the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee after help from the community to cover the costs, has decided to go to Oklahoma as a preferred walk-on.
“Blessed, first of all,” Tate said. “It's great because I've been wanting to go to OU my whole life since I moved to Oklahoma. To get this opportunity is crazy.”
When Tate suffered the injury in an August scrimmage, the possibility of becoming a Sooner was a distant thought.
First, he had to find a way to get the surgery. The Edmond community rallied around the speedster, eventually landing him surgery and rehabilitation for free.
The story received national attention, even bringing in retired NFL receiver Johnny Knox to see Tate and start a foundation to help athletes in his situation.
Now, Tate's a month ahead of schedule in rehab. He started running Monday on a treadmill, increasing the possibility that he could be ready for track in the spring.
“He works hard,” Edmond North coach Scott Burger said. “He's a special kid, he really is. It's good to see stuff like that because most people with his injury don't come back that way. Everything indicates he's going to do good and I'm just glad he's going to get the opportunity to try it.”
Tate really just wants an opportunity to show his abilities once again.
The odds of seeing the field as a walk-on are slim, and he knows that. But he's ready to face the challenge, much like he faced the knee injury.
“Coach (Josh) Heupel, we emailed each other and we were talking about this,” Tate said. “He said everybody has to earn it, so that's what I'm going to do.
“(The injury) helped me a lot; just pushing myself to the limit every time I do something. If I want it, I'll go get it. That's what's going to be in my head throughout this whole journey.”
Burger believes Tate can work his way on the field. The first-year coach was impressed with Tate's ability in summer workouts and scrimmages.
So, it was extremely crushing to watch Tate go down for the season and lose his chance to impress recruiters.
“If he had stayed healthy the whole year, in my opinion, there would have been offers,” Burger said. “He would have been special on the football field. There's some of those kids you say defenses don't have an answer for, and he would have been that kind of kid.”
As a junior, Tate scored just one rushing touchdown in limited action in the backfield. He did have 36 tackles and two interceptions at defensive back. Tate is expected to be a running back for the Sooners.
It may take him some time to climb the depth chart, though. But he's OK with that as long as his story continues.
“I still got my four years up there,” Tate said with a smile.