Greenville High's Jalen Tate prepares for next chapter at Georgia State after Shrine Bowl

Geoff Preston
The Greenville News

SPARTANBURG -- Greenville High School cornerback Jalen Tate is not only trying to soak up the final practices of his high school football career but also the final days of being a high school student.

The senior has spent the past few days practicing and preparing for the Shrine Bowl at Wofford College on Saturday. After that, he will set out for Atlanta to begin his college career at Georgia State.

Tate graduated early from Greenville, and is set to enroll early at Georgia State.

Greenville High School's Jalen Tate during practice at Spartanburg High School Tuesday, December 17, 2019, as the South Carolina team prepares for the Shrine Bowl on Saturday.

He had a lot of choices to make this fall, with offers from 18 NCAA Division I schools according to 247 Sports, including West Virginia, Appalachian State, Charlotte and Liberty. 

His commitment to Georgia State was a journey that started four years ago.

"I had a high connection with the coaches; they’ve been with me since ninth grade," he said. "They’ve never turned their back on me. Whenever they said something, they always followed through with it. There was a bond and trust there."

Greenville coach Greg Porter said the decision needed to be Tate's, not his or his parents. He thinks the decision was a great one.

"It’s away from home but it’s close, so if his parents need to get to him, he’s not that far away where they can’t," he said. "The structure from coach (Shawn) Elliot and his staff, I just know it’s what he needed. From all the offers he had, they seemed to care more about him than football."

Greenville High School's Jalen Tate during practice at Spartanburg High School Tuesday, December 17, 2019, as the South Carolina team prepares for the Shrine Bowl on Saturday.

Porter said the Panthers sent four coaches to Greenville to meet with Tate following his final high school class last week just to talk with him, even though Tate announced his commitment Oct. 13.

It's little things like checking in, even after a commitment has been made, that Porter said makes programs stand out.

Those little things have also strengthened Tate's commitment to Georgia State, to the point that he's taken it upon himself to try to convince other top prospects to come to Atlanta.

"I’ve asked my coaches if there’s any players they need help with and I go get them," he said. "We’ve had three recruits in the past few days, a transfer from (South Carolina) that is a former 5-star. The goal is to keep moving up so we can keep (going to a bowl game) every year."

Although the Georgia State program has existed only since 2010, making bowl games every season is the standard the Panthers are starting to set. 

On Dec. 31, Georgia State (7-5) will compete against Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl. Elliot also guided the Panthers to their first bowl win in 2017 against Western Kentucky, and the only two winning seasons in program history have occurred during his three-season tenure in Atlanta.

Greenville High School's Jalen Tate during practice at Spartanburg High School Tuesday, December 17, 2019, as the South Carolina team prepares for the Shrine Bowl on Saturday.

Georgia State might be a program on the rise, and being a part of the program taking the next step appealed to Tate.

"People that go there are going to see my name in the history books as someone who helped change the program," he said. "We’ve only been there for about 10 years, and the goal is to keep making the program better and better."

Before Tate focuses on making plays on Saturdays in the fall, he has one more game to play in high school.

Although the Shrine Bowl is just an exhibition game, the South Carolina team has some history on its mind. Last season's game ended in a 10-10 tie, but North Carolina had won the previous three games by an average margin of 17.7 points.

"We’re trying to bring it home. That’s the goal and the mindset we have," he said. "The goal of everyone is to stay safe at the end of the day, but after that, the goal is to win it."

Greenville High School's Jalen Tate during practice at Spartanburg High School Tuesday, December 17, 2019, as the South Carolina team prepares for the Shrine Bowl on Saturday.