By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — A Salmen High graduate who helped lead the school to a state football championship apparently drowned in Lake Pontchartrain on Tuesday, the result of a boating accident in the early morning hours.
Isiah Tate, 21, played for Salmen on the 2009 team that won a state basketball championship under coach Jay Carlin. Tate was also a star on the Salmen football team, played wide receiver and later went on to play college football, with dreams of making it to the National Football League.
Monday night, Tate and three of his friends were watching the NBA playoff game, and later in the early morning hours of Tuesday, decided to go fishing.
They took a boat from the Oak Harbor area and headed out into Lake Pontchartrain, only to find the waters very rough, deciding to turn around, Sgt. Darryl Galloway of the La. Wildlife and Fisheries Department said. As the boat made a left turn, Tate was tossed from the boat into the water.
A search began with boats from the St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office, Wildlife and Fisheries and the U.S. Coast Guard, but his body was not recovered until approximately 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Tate was not wearing a personal floatation device, officials said.
His brother-in-law, Pastor Corey Steele of Living the Word International in Slidell, said Tate was a young man who never backed down from a challenge, and dreamed of beating the odds to play professional football.
“He was so passionate about sports, and even though he loved playing basketball, he was working to make it in professional football,” Steele said. “He loved a challenge and was so athletic, with a strong will. He believed he could make it and that is what he was working for.”
Tate grew up in a home without his father, raised by his mother, Patricia Tate, until she died in 2004 from an aneurysm. At that point, Steele had married Tate’s one sibling, Zawuana Tate, and was then raised by his sister and brother-in-law from the age of 13.
“Isaiah was full of joy and a young man who was consumed by sports. He loved basketball and football,” Steele said. “He thought he was invincible and knew it would be a challenge to make the NFL, but was doing everything he could to have a chance to make it.”
Steele and Zawuana Tate Steele are in leadership at Living the Word International, where Isaiah Tate was a member under Senior Pastor Lawrence Weathersby Sr.
Tate originally graduated from Salmen and went on scholarship to Hartnell Junior College in California before transferring back to Louisiana College in 2010, where he made the football team and was playing wide receiver for the Wildcats.
The Steele and Tate families released a statement on Tuesday.
“Isaiah was kind, loving and well respected in this community. We are going to miss him. While we are deeply saddened by our loss, we will continue to trust in God and stand strong in our faith. We are thankful for all the prayers and support and ask that everyone will continue to pray for us, Isaiah’s friends who were with him, and their families,” the statement signed “Steele-Tate families” said.