The 2009 Michigan-Notre Dame game was supposed to be Tate Forcier’s coming out party, the first of many great things to come from the then-freshman quarterback.
One week removed from a three-TD performance against Western Michigan — in which he became just the third true freshman QB to start a season-opener for the Wolverines — Forcier was the hero in a 38–34 barnburner with the Fighting Irish. He began the fourth quarter with a dazzling, 31-yard scoring run on 4th-and-3. He ended it with a game-winning, five-yard TD pass to Greg Matthews with 11 seconds left — the culmination of a nine-play, 58-yard drive that was positively veteran-like.
Exclaimed ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough: “A star is born in college football today!”
At the time, the San Diego native’s passing and running ability — not to mention moxie — appeared to be exactly what Michigan and second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez needed after a miserable, 3–9 campaign the year before.
Yet four years later, we’re left wondering why Forcier’s heroics against Notre Dame represent the pinnacle of his football career rather than a launching point.
What happened to the onetime savior for the Maize and Blue?
QBForce.com is dedicated to the exploits of Forcier and his two older brothers, Jason and Chris, all of whom signed with major conference programs to play QB during the 2000s. Near the top, Robert “Tate” Forcier is billed as someone who “continues to train quarterback prospects throughout Southern California,” after which a number with a San Diego area code is listed for anyone interested in finding out more about private sessions from him.
After an initial text message reply asking “Who is this?”, Lost Lettermen received no response to repeated calls, voicemails or texts to that number. When reached at their places of business, both Forcier’s parents (who run a San Diego limousine company) and older brother Jason (who works in commercial real estate in Silicon Valley) were similarly nonresponsive.
Tate’s mission statement on the site reads, “This website was created most importantly to thank everyone… My goal is also to create a website helping upcoming prep-stars, but especially help promote local recruits.”
One can’t blame Forcier and his family for a potential unwillingness to rehash everything that happened since that day in Ann Arbor four years ago. For just as quickly as Forcier found himself atop the college football landscape, it all came apart.
He led Michigan to a 4–0 start in 2009, but assorted injuries and inconsistency — not to mention a porous Wolverines defense — contributed to a 1–7 tailspin to end the year. The following offseason, he was replaced as the starter by Denard Robinson.
Rumors of his imminent transfer dogged him throughout the 2010 season, even as he set a school record for completion percentage in a game against Bowling Green (going a perfect 12-for-12) and led Michigan to a thrilling, 67–65 win in triple OT against Illinois that clinched bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007.
The next year-and-a-half was a rough one. Forcier’s timeline progressed thusly:
- December 2010: Deemed academically ineligible for the 2011 Gator Bowl;
- January 2011: Officially no longer a member of the Michigan program, per an announcement from AD Dave Brandon;
- February 2011: Announces transfer to Miami (FL) but never matriculates;
- April 2011: Sent to a Grand Rapids, MI, hospital after locking himself in the bedroom of a local apartment and hanging from a third-story window, necessitating a call to the police;
- July 2011: Transfers to San Jose State but leaves the program in January 2012, reportedly for academic reasons;
- May 2012: Signs with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats but is released less than a month later.
It’s easy to draw parallels between Forcier’s flameout and that of ex-USC QB and NFL draft bust Todd Marinovich two decades before. In fact, Forcier trained with Marinovich’s father, Marv, starting as a third-grader until the completion of his senior year at Scripps Ranch High School.
Both Forcier and Marinovich were childhood prodigies trained to be NFL quarterbacks from an early age but flamed out in spectacular fashion, all the while displaying erratic behavior; Marinovich with drug addiction and Forcier with bad academics, one bizarre incident after another and rumors of deeper problems. The now 23-year-old Forcier appears to be back in his hometown of San Diego trying to tutor young signal-callers while Marinovich, 44, is also mentoring quarterbacks in Orange County and running his own art gallery.
We’re two days out from the 2013 installment of Michigan-Notre Dame. Four years ago, we were all left thinking that Tate Forcier’s heroics in that game were a sign of things to come — both in Ann Arbor and possibly beyond.
Instead, all we’re left with of Tate Forcier now is YouTube clips of those aforementioned clutch plays and thoughts of what could have been. Those, and a phone number with a 619 area code that anyone in Southern California with a quarterback prospect in need of private tutelage is encouraged to call.