Georgia Bulldogs mourn death of football great Lars Tate

Former Georgia player Lars Tate, one of the founding members of “Running Back University,” has died. He was 56.

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Former Georgia player Lars Tate, one of the founding members of “Running Back University,” has died. He was 56.

ATHENS — One of the founding members of “Running Back University” has died.

Lars Tate, leading rusher on the 1986 and ‘87 Georgia teams and one of the “Four Horsemen” in the backfield on those teams, died early Tuesday at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was 56.

Tate’s cause of death was not immediately known. However, he was diagnosed with cancer just last month and was in rapidly failing health, according to longtime friend Traci Sims. Tate’s death came 32 days before Georgia’s 2022 season opener. He wore the No. 32 for the Bulldogs.

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At Georgia, Tate shared carries in a backfield that included Rodney Hampton, Keith Henderson and Tim Worley. All four went on to NFL careers. Tate specialized as the goal-line smasher of the group, scoring 30 touchdowns over his final two seasons and finishing with 36 rushing TDs in his career, which is tied with Todd Gurley for third on the all-time list.

“I’m devastated, to be honest with you,” said Worley, reached by telephone Tuesday. “This one hits hard. Lars and I were tight. We loved each other, and I’m paralyzed right now. I don’t know what to do but turn to the Lord.”

Friends were in the process of seeking help for transportation and burial expenses. A Go Fund Me page has been established.

Tate is survived by his girlfriend, Kelli Edwards of St. Petersburg; his mother, Betty Tate of Jonesboro; and three children: Stephan Tate, Lauren Tate and Donovan Tate; and some sisters and brothers.

Donovan Tate also was a great athlete growing up in Georgia, excelling in football and baseball at Cartersville High. He was drafted third overall in the 2009 MLB draft and played quarterback at Arizona after his baseball career ended.

Lars Tate was the Gatorade National Offensive Player of the Year when he signed with Georgia out of North Central High in Indianapolis in 1984. Tate left Georgia in 1987 with 3,017 career rushing yards, which still stands sixth on the Bulldogs’ all-time list.

Tate was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1988 and played three seasons in the NFL. He owns one of the Bucs’ all-time great highlights from his rookie season, when he was flipped at the line of scrimmage, landed on his feet and then ran the rest of the way for a 46-yard touchdown.

Sims said Tate had some personal struggles after his football career ended, but added that he celebrated three years of sobriety in February.

“He had gotten his life together, and (his girlfriend) Kelli has been an absolute godsend,” Sims said. “We are all so shocked and heartbroken.”