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obert Forcier has been throwing things his entire
life - everything from last-minute, game-winning
touchdowns against Notre Dame to muddy foot-
ball 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.
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
"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
"They would collect there, and at the end of the week, I
would have to go back there and grab them all and wash
To this day, the Forciers joke that throwing his bottle is
how Tatedeveloped 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
"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,
the 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 try- -
ing 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
It's a message that easily transfers to sports, and
sports are what Forcier's life has revolved around since
he could walk. Even when the family would go to Block-
buster to rent video games, he would race into the store
before his brothers just to make sure they didn't pick out
"It would drive his brothers nuts," Mike said. "They'd
say, 'Don't you ever want to do anything that doesn't
have to do with sports?' "
The answer: Rarely.
Why would he? Forcier, who was nicknamed "Little
Man Tate" in the early 1990s when a movie of the same
name came out about a child prodigy, showed an innate
knack for athletics. He was especially good at basketball
and Pop Warner football, where he once again show-
cased his gunslinger's arm.
On the court, Forcier regularly played up two or three
age groups, even though he was a small kid to begin with.
He played until ninth grade, and even though he would
often get beat, sometimes, he would hold his own.
"He was playing inner-city kids, and Tate didn't care,"
Jason said. "He had skateboarding shoes on and had the
bowl cut and two big buck teeth, and he was in like fourth
grade trying to guard these sixth graders. It was cool to
see, just his 'little brother' mentality that, 'I'm not going
to let these kids beat me.' "
Butit was the football field - where he played kids his
own age - where he really excelled.
"At that age, you never see the ball thrown," Jason
said. "The coaches would figure out which kids could
catch and just have them run straight up the field and,
when they caught it, it was always a touchdown, because
no one knows how to cover passes at that age. They were
killing these teams left and right because of that."
Even then, the Forciers were making a name for them-
selves -- in more ways than just the football field. An
avid Michigan fan who grew up in Birmingham, Mike
would take the boys to Trophies, a local San Diego sports
bar, to watch the Wolverines after the boys' Pop Warner
The Forciers would trot in, the boys still fully padded
from head to toe and Mike in his coaching sweatshirt -
one that made him look like Patriots coach Bill Belichick,
according to Jason.
"We'd order a table, and everyone in there would turn
around and look at us," Jason said. "But after a while,
they started to recognize us and get a kick out of the kids
that would sit there in their pads and watch the football
games. We were like, 'Dad, we just want to take our pads
off,' and he'd say, 'No, this is going to be funny.' "
But through his childhood, it was Forcier's intense
competitive nature that made him stand out - even in
situations where it was better to subdue it. When Forcier
was seven, he and a friend ran ahead of the family as they
searched for their car in a parking garage.
Mike found him using a rock to scratch a game of Tic-
Tac-Toe into a stranger's car.
"My dad was like, 'What an idiot,' and told Tate he'd
have to pay for it," Jason said. "And he paid for it by him-
self, but at the time, he goes, 'Well, I won!' "
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
As much as the brothers were together growing up,
they took very different paths once each entered high
school. Jason, the oldest, went to school in St. Clemente,
Calif., nearly an hour and a half away from the Forcier
residence. Chris went to a small, Catholic, all-boys
school named St. Augustine.
Tate originally followed in Chris's footsteps. The prob-
lem was, unlike Chris, who had gone to a Catholic middle
school, Forcier was a public-school kid through eighth
grade - and he was
for the transition:
"You're talking about an all-boys Catholic school - it
was pretty strict," Mike said. "And Tate, well, he's like a
little gambler. He was pushing his luck all the time. He'd
come to school with no belt, and he. knew he was sup-
posed to have a belt, and he wanted to see what he could
'get away with."
He soon found out that he couldn't get away with
Within three weeks of entering ninth grade at St.
Augustine, Forcier had racked up enough detentions that
he had to serve one on a Friday, forcing him to miss the
bus for one of the Saints' crucial rivalries - a game he
would have missed completely if Mike hadn't taken off
work to drive him after detention.
After a while, Forcier had had enough, and his old com-
petitive flair took over once again. He swiped a pad of
detention slips off his teacher's desk and started writing
citations for members of the baseball team, who Forcier
suspected had ratted him out so that their star pitcher
could take over the quarterback spot.
He wrote out detentions for anything he could think
of, stuffed them into his enemies' lockers and soon, the
detention room began filling up around him.
"No one knew how on earth all these kids were getting
so many detentions," Mike said with a laugh. "The teach-
ers had no idea what was going on.
"It's still legendary over there."
Needless to say, the school and Forcier didn't see eye-
to-eye on a lot of things.
A couple weeks later, Forcier decided the Catholic
school route wasn't for him. But that put him in an odd
position. On top of struggling at St. Augustine, Forcier,
who had been an all-A student through sixth grade,
didn't do so well in seventh and eighth.
His parents had taken on more responsibilities at San
Diego Limo Buses, which left Forcier to fend for himself
- and he fell behind quickly.
Looking back, Mike knows the importance that time
had on his son. See FORCIER, Page 7B