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LITTLE MAN TATE: How Forcier went from little brother to struggling Catholic schoolboy to Michigan's starting quarterback

Photo courtesy of Suzanne Forcier
Forcier poses for a Pop Warner football picture. Buy this photo

Daily Sports Editor
Published November 5, 2009

Robert Forcier has been throwing things his entire life — everything from last-minute, game-winning touchdowns against Notre Dame to muddy football cleats, spikes up, at his older brothers whenever they picked on him. But when he was two years old, his family members didn’t quite know what to make of it when he showed the early signs of the arm strength and accuracy that would one day land him a scholarship at Michigan.

Chris Dzombak/Daily
Tate Forcier speaks with the media after playing against Indiana on 9-26-09.
Photo coutesy of Suzanne Forcier
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Forcier
Tate Forcier is interviewed after winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Forcier

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During a family trip to Disneyland, Forcier played with a NERF Oakland Raiders football while his dad, Mike, and older brothers, Jason and Chris, went on Space Mountain. That's nothing out of the ordinary, unless, of course, that two-year-old is gunning tight spirals across the sidewalk.

“I would be sitting with him, waiting for everyone else to get off the ride, and I would be throwing the ball with him,” Forcier’s mom Suzanne said. “And I couldn’t believe it. He would throw it like he’d been throwing a football forever. And people would stare and be like, ‘He’s just a kid!’ And he’s still in the stroller!”

The problem was, at that age, Forcier didn’t always use his fledgling right arm for good.

Like many parents, Mike and Suzanne struggled to wean their youngest son of his baby bottle, and the bad habit was starting to rear its negative side effects.

“That’s why he had big buck teeth,” Forcier’s oldest brother, Jason, 23, said with a laugh.

Mike tried to be the enforcer of the situation, but Forcier knew how to cover his tracks. When he heard his dad’s large, rumbling Jeep Wrangler storming up the street, Forcier would stand up and hurl his bottle completely across the living room — over an Asian shoji screen room divider propped up in a corner of the room — and act as if nothing had happened.

“We were like, ‘What the hell?’ just watching him chuck it out of nowhere,” Jason said. “And then my dad would come in, and we finally figured out he just wanted to hide it and not get caught.”

Some members of the family were more lenient than others with Forcier’s newfound talent.

“As a mother, of course, I had a little bit more patience with things like that,” Suzanne said. “They would collect there, and at the end of the week, I would have to go back there and grab them all and wash them.”

To this day, the Forciers joke that throwing his bottle is how Tate developed his cannon of an arm.

Even then, Forcier was a quarterback.

Little Man Tate

Forcier’s competitive drive, which his dad calls “unimaginable,” stems from his older brothers’ bullying, an understandable result of being one of three boys who went on to play college football — one of his brothers played at Michigan and Stanford (Jason) and the other plays at Furman after transferring from UCLA (Chris).

Forcier, even though he was small for his age, was never one to back down when his brothers picked on him.

“He’d take a butter knife and try poking me with it and say, ‘Does that hurt, huh?’ ” Jason said. “I’d be laughing so hard I’d be powerless. He was pretty strong as a little kid, but I’m his big brother. I can still pound him down into the dirt.”

But the three brothers weren’t always fighting. In fact, they did almost everything together, including football and just goofing around. But they also worked — something Mike wanted to teach them from a young age. Forcier, Jason and Chris grew up helping out at San Diego Limo Buses, Mike's self-started party vehicle company.

On weekends, the three would clean limos and help Mike with marketing work for a few hours. They didn’t get much money, but $40 to an eight-year-old is a pretty hefty bit of pocket change.

The trio decided to pool their money to get a Zodiac boat, an inflatable raft with a two-and-half horsepower engine. Even though the boys could ride a bike faster than the boat could go, they loved taking it out together.

“That was the coolest thing, like buying a car or home,” Jason said. “We took that thing out every weekend. We’d go fishing, have little parties out there, find little islands and stuff. We were always trying to go out on it, just fun things we could do, because we were always together.”

They didn’t realize it then, but Mike’s message was clear — you have to earn everything, a message that Jason thinks has helped the boys get where they are today.

It’s a message that easily transfers to sports, and sports are what Forcier’s life has revolved around since he could walk.