When the nation's top football players choose a university to enroll in, there's usually a lot of hype and attention put on them by that school's fan base

Tennessee is no different. In fact, Vol fans are among the rowdiest and most vocal in the country.

So if a player enrolled at UT in January and immediately became the best receiver and punt returner on campus, he certainly would've been met with all the hoopla, right?

But that's not exactly what happened to Golden Tate, who came to Knoxville shortly after finishing up his rookie season with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.

So why did he decide to come to UT?

"I'm from Nashville, and I came out as a junior to enter the NFL Draft," Tate said in an exclusive interview with the Daily Beacon. "I went to undergrad school at Notre Dame, and one of the reasons I went to Notre Dame was to eventually get my degree, so I figured I'd come back and start working towards my degree.

"I just kind of decided to come to UT, because that's where my friends are, and I can also take some credits that were transferred from Notre Dame."

Tate is currently taking nine hours of classes and will need 21 more hours after this semester to graduate with a sociology degree.

"That's ultimately what your goal should be when you come to college," UT coach Derek Dooley said about Tate's decision to come back to school and graduate. "I think it's a great example for everybody, that no matter what your future holds, having that degree, it's a meaningful achievement, accomplishment, and hopefully, it's a good indicator of creating an opportunity for you down the line."

Tate's decision to come back to college just a year removed from giving up his amateur sports status is unique.

Many athletes who leave school early for professional sports never come back to school and get their degree. Others wait until after their playing days are over, years down the road.

However, for Tate, he was aware the longer he spent away from the classroom, his chances of returning would diminish.

"Well, I kind of figured that the farther away I get from it, the less likely I am to go back for one, and that's what people have been telling me," he said. "Secondly, this year is kind of a different type of year, different type of offseason with the (NFL) lockout so I figured I'd do something with my time — that is going to school during this period when I don't know when I'd be back working.

"It's just kind of a coincidence that my rookie year I have to deal with the lockout and getting the opportunity to come back and knock out the credits."

Seattle selected Tate in the second round with the 60th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Tate helped the Seahawks win the NFC West division this past year. Seattle then upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round of the playoffs before falling to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round.

Tate finished the year with 21 receptions for 227 yards and also returned 16 punts for 202 yards.

"It was different," Tate said of his first year as a pro. "Definitely wasn't easy. There's a lot of mental things that I have to get down. I guess you kind of have to play the game within the game. It was tough. I definitely learned a lot, and I think this past year is definitely going to help me for next year."

During his collegiate playing career, Tate was an explosive playmaker for the Fighting Irish from 2007-09. He left South Bend amassing more than 2,700 all-purpose yards and as the most decorated receiver in school history.

He was named a first-team All-American in 2009, winning the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's most outstanding receiver, after catching 93 passes for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior.

Yet despite his personal success on the field, the Irish didn't live up to the hype that surrounded them during Tate's tenure.

"If you look at it from a team prospective, we did not accomplish what I came there for: win a major (BCS) bowl game, or at least go to a major bowl game, we did not do that in the three years I was there," Tate said. "Personally, I did what I had to do to get me here, with thanks to Coach (Charlie) Weis and the guys I teamed with, especially (quarterback) Jimmy Clausen getting me the ball. Personally, I got to where I needed to be."

Weis, a successful offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, was a big factor in Tate's decision to attend Notre Dame, as well as his visit to the campus.

"My recruiting trip, I absolutely just fell in love with the place and the type of people there and the character they represent," he said. "The three basics were that after I leave, I'm going to have best educations in the country. Secondly, I know Coach Weis had won Super Bowls and I wanted to be in the NFL eventually, so that kind of connection. Thirdly, I knew that they were graduating two of their top receivers, which meant they were going be open spots for young guys to come in to play."

Being from the Volunteer state, Tate was obviously targeted by Tennessee when he was regarded as one of the nation's top prospects in recruiting class of 2007.

"They highly recruited me," he said. "I think they might have been my second scholarship or my third scholarship (offer) behind MTSU and Vanderbilt. Definitely got recruited by Coach (Phillip) Fulmer and all those guys."

But along with being a football star who was recruited by colleges across the country, Tate was also a standout outfielder on the baseball diamond. He was drafted out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 MLB Draft and later by the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 MLB Draft.

"I wanted to go to college at the very least and try both sports," he said. "It's kind of a different game, you know. It's more fun to play around in high school and all that stuff, and then once you get to college, it's win at all costs. I wanted to try them both and after my first season, I still didn't know where I wanted go with it. Then after my second season of playing both sports, I kind of figured I'm a little better at football, and my passion is really for football, and I really enjoy the joy that football brings. So after talking with Coach Weis, I came out and had a great junior campaign (in football), so I kind of felt that was the need for me to go ahead and decide what was going to make me happy, and what's also going to make it so my family can live comfortable. So I decided on football."

Tate's decision to focus on the gridiron took him from South Bend to Seattle.

The decision to focus on academics has brought Tate to Knoxville.

Only now, he's just a senior majoring in sociology, not the talk of the campus.

"We could use him," Dooley said. "We'd take him if he had some eligibility left."