Austin Pate was the rock on which the Dobyns-Bennett boys soccer team leaned this past spring. The Tribe were not only an area and regional power, but were also recognized on the national stage as well. They spent several weeks inside ESPN's POWERADE FAB 50 national rankings this past season, rising into the top 25 by the postseason.
A heartbreaking away loss to Bearden on penalty kicks in the Class AAA sectional round derailed hopes of a trip to the state tournament, but nevertheless the Indians enjoyed a fantastic season. Pate was at the center of the conversation, too, producing immense display after immense display as a central defender.
The versatile junior even surfaced up front during the term, scoring several crucial goals. He earned the Indians an early-season draw with Farragut, while his opportunistic finish against Bearden with eight minutes remaining in regulation sent the match to extra time.
Pate was named District 1-AAA's player of the year and was also selected to the all-state team as a defender. He recently took a few minutes off from offseason training to chat with Times-News sports writer Jack Goodson on the phone. Here's what Pate had to say during the short Q&A session:
Who is your favorite athlete, past or present?
Ronaldo (not Cristiano Ronaldo). He was electric in his prime - when I get on YouTube, that's the guy I look for.
What is your favorite movie?
"Inception." I really like a movie where you have to think while you watch it.
What is your best athletic memory?
Farragut game (a 1-1 draw on March 13). I scored the goal at the end of the game (in the 79th minute), and everyone was going crazy. I have an image of the goal as the screensaver on my computer
What is your worst athletic memory?
I was playing in a college camp all-star game two years ago. All of us were playing against college players and one of them did me up dirty. He back-heel, nutmegged me. Made me look real bad.
If you were hosting a dinner party, who would be your three ideal guests?
Kevin Hart, Blake Lively and Jennifer Anniston in her prime. You gotta have a girl for each guy.
In a move about your life, who would play you?
Denzel Washington. Just kidding. I guess I'd have to say Chris Evans.
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To be able to fly. I enjoy airplanes, and I've always wanted to go skydiving so that makes sense.
Me and teammate Cory Combs, when I was a freshman and he was a sophomore, we had the exact same boxer shorts. It was a game day thing where we wore them for games. So, yeah, we wore them when we played Bearden and lost (on penalty kicks in the sectional round on May 19) - now the superstition is never to wear the same boxers again.
Do you have nickname?
Not really. A lot of people just call me Pate.
You're one of the most versatile soccer players in the region, how did you end up in the center of defense?
Well, I played striker first. I played competitively at that position for three years, and then I got a new coach who realized I was fast and liked playing with sweepers. So I moved to sweeper. It's been a perfect fit ever since. There is something I love about defending. I'm a physical player, I relish that.