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Josh Pate, right, talks with Kirby Smart, head coach of the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs, during SEC Football Media Days in Nashville, Tenn.
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My favorite college football analyst: a brother in Christ?

Josh Pate, who grew up in a Church of Christ in Georgia, is 'a classic success story of hard work, laser focus and a lot of trial and error.'

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After more than a year of faithful listening, I finally heard something on Josh Pate’s show that shocked me.

If you’re a college football fan, you should be watching “Late Kick with Josh Pate” on YouTube or listening to its podcast. Pate delivers insightful analysis of the sport without fawning over the flavor of the week or bending the knee before the great Nick Saban. (I’m looking at you, Gary Danielson. And stop yelling “Ala-BAMA,” Stephen A.)

Pate loves the pageantry, the rivalries and game days on campus. He dislikes the corporate-ization of the sport, neutral site games and the “casuals” who talk trash without any real knowledge.

When folks were saying that Kirby Smart could never lead my Georgia Bulldogs to a national title, Pate begged to differ. “It’s not that he can’t. He just hasn’t yet,” he said.

And then Kirby did it — twice.

You won’t hear any foul language on “Late Kick” — except for the word that Pate himself has designated as unspeakable and refuses to utter above a whisper — “offseason.” He doesn’t believe in it.

But I was nonetheless shocked when I heard him talk about Purdue’s 2021 road game at Notre Dame. Purdue’s band wanted to bring their giant drum, but it wouldn’t fit through the visitors’ entrance at Notre Dame Stadium. It would fit through Notre Dame’s entrance, but the Fighting Irish told the Boilermakers that they had no fighting chance of using it.

“Notre Dame said, ‘Nope. We’re Catholic, but we’re kind of going Church of Christ on you — no instrumental music in here today,’” Pate said. “I’m a Church of Christ guy, so I know all about it.”

I nearly fell out of my chair. My favorite sports commentator is a brother in Christ? I messaged him on Twitter immediately and asked him for an interview. He tentatively agreed — and we’ve been going back and forth ever since.

Pate is constantly on the move, either interviewing coaches on campuses or pursuing his other passions, storm chasing and trainhopping — that’s right, like a hobo.

Since I couldn’t get Pate on the phone, I did the next-best thing: I called his dad.

Dan Pate, it turns out, was more than happy to brag on his kids — Joshua (family members are the only ones who call him that, Dan told me) and his younger sister, Lauren. Both grew up in the pews of the Rose Hill Church of Christ in Columbus, Ga., where Dan occasionally teaches Bible class and leads singing.

“I was a little booger when I was growing up,” Dan said, but his kids walked the straight and narrow.

“Everyone liked them,” Dan said, “but not because they followed the crowd. They created their own crowd.”

He remembered a group of boys trying to convince Josh to join them as they stuffed M-80 firecrackers into mailboxes. Josh decided that wasn’t for him. And, of course, the boys got caught.

“Every decision he has ever made has been Christ-based …”

“From the day he could talk to this very day I have never, ever known him to tell me something that wasn’t the truth,” Dan said. The most rebellious thing his son ever did was diving into the water at the rock quarry. And then there’s the trainhopping. Sometimes he’ll ride the rails for 50-60 miles, his father said with a laugh.

“He’s got a heart of gold as far as helping others,” Dan said of his son, who used to help him deliver Meals on Wheels. “Every decision he has ever made has been Christ-based — him and his sister both.”

From the porch of the guest house at Neema Village in Arusha, Tanzania, Erik Tryggestad watches Josh Pate discuss UGA's 49-3 rout of Oregon.

From the porch of the guest house at Neema Village in Arusha, Tanzania, Erik Tryggestad watches Josh Pate discuss UGA’s 49-3 rout of Oregon.

During the fall, Josh Pate spends Saturdays covering games and Sundays getting ready for his live YouTube show. He tunes into the Rose Hill church’s livestream, with his rip-n-sip communion ready to go, his dad said. Josh sometimes leads singing and delivers Bible lessons during his visits home.

“People migrate to him because they find out the kind of character he’s got,” Dan said. “They love him at Rose Hill.”

I messaged the church’s pulpit minister, Nathan Diller, to get his take. He and his wife, Sarah, are graduates of Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee.

Josh Pate, right, talks with Kirby Smart, head coach of the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs, during SEC Football Media Days in Nashville, Tenn.

Josh Pate, right, talks with Kirby Smart, head coach of the back-to-back national champion Georgia Bulldogs, during SEC Football Media Days in Nashville, Tenn.

“Josh is a great guy — super down-to-earth and always wanting to help Rose Hill, even from afar,” the church’s minister, Nathan Diller, told me. “He comes down to visit a lot during the non-football season.”

(Notice that he didn’t say “offseason,” though I doubt Pate would prefer his alternate wording! Perhaps we should take a cue from the apostle Paul, who admonished Timothy to “Preach the word … in and out of season” in 2 Timothy 4:2.)

Pate, it would seem, didn’t have a Fighting Irish chance of getting into sports media. After graduating high school in 2004, he went to college without an idea of what he wanted to do. So he left and got a job in an un-air-conditioned fabric warehouse.

To pass the time, he listened to sports talk radio and fell in love with it. He badgered the local ESPN affiliate to let him hang out at the station and see how it was done. In his truck, he practiced doing his own sports commentary. Then, when the co-host of the afternoon drive show called in sick, Pate filled in — and was on air for the next two years.

Columbus TV station WLTZ hired him to do a college football show. Soon, he was promoted to sports director and news anchor. Rather than move toward network sports or ESPN, he chose to start “Late Kick,” delivering his own content directly to college football fans through YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

After about two years the show took off and he got an offer from 247Sports, a network of websites owned by CBS. He moved the show from Columbus to Nashville, Tenn., and got a sponsorship deal with Academy Sports and Outdoors.


Related: ‘Very humble’ Christian named head coach of NFL’s Texans


“Josh is a classic success story of hard work, laser focus and a lot of trial and error,” Diller said.

From watching his show, I know that Pate starts every episode by announcing that it’s “the year of our Lord (fill in the date).” And he ends each episode with “God bless.”

In between, there’s a lot of great college football commentary — in and out of season.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @eriktryggestad. Find “Late Kick with Josh Pate” on YouTube.

Filed under: faith and football Football Insight Josh Pate Top Stories University of Georgia YouTube

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