The late William Clay Ford Sr. owned the Detroit Lions for more than 50 years, but was increasingly reclusive in the final years of his life. His son, Bill Ford Jr., has been the face of ownership.

And that was again the case last week, when Ford Jr. stepped up to help woo receiver Golden Tate to the Lions.

Tate flew into Detroit on Tuesday and spent most of Wednesday around the team's facility. He thought he would still re-sign with the Seahawks, and credited Ford Jr. role in the recruitment for helping to sway his mind to Detroit.

"One thing that really stood out to me is that Mr. Ford found some time to meet with me today," Tate said Wednesday shortly after signing his deal. "I know he's been going through a lot lately with family issues, so for him to find time in his busy schedule to meet with me and have a conversation, that meant a lot. I felt like I was wanted here.

"He was just real with me. You can tell that he wanted me to be here. For me, I want to go to a place where they accept me and want me there, so that was huge."

Ford has played a vital role in the organization in recent years, including meeting with Jim Caldwell during Detroit's coaching search in January and signing off on the hiring a couple weeks later.

It has been only a week since William Clay Ford died at age 88 due to complications from pneumonia. His widow, Martha, became the majority owner while Bill Ford Jr. remained the team's vice chairman.

While president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew will continue to run the daily football business, Ford Jr. showed during the Tate courtship he plans to have a more active role in major moves than his father.

Tate said his conversation with Ford lasted about 20 minutes, and he was impressed that Ford asked about his charitable endeavors. The receiver is involved in groups that work with autistic children, an interest that was spawned from being around Charlie Weis' autistic daughter during his college days at Notre Dame.

Tate said cited Gilda's Club, which works with families that are dealing with cancer, as a charity that is dear to him.