Bill Bates is a former NFL defensive back who played 15 season for the Dallas Cowboys from 1983-1997 — one of only three players to do so. He is a three-time Super Bowl winner (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) and a one-time Pro Bowler (’84).
Alex Kenney: Having won a Super Bowl or two . . . or three, what’s the thing you remember most?
Bill Bates: The excitement and the adrenaline flow before the games. Also being the captain of the ’93 Super Bowl and the coin toss.
Alex Kenney: What did you pick?
Bill Bates: Heads man!
Alex Kenney: You played with a number of great players over the years; do you still keep in touch with any of your teammates?
Bill Bates: Oh sure. I stay in touch with a number of teammates from the Landry era who I spent six years with. I also spent nine years with Coach Johnson and the Swtizer guys. Between the two, there were a lot of guys to keep up with. Also I was one of the main guys to keep the ties between Landry and Johnson.
Alex Kenney: Jerry Jones seems like a pretty cool guy. From a player’s standpoint, is his real persona as cool as his image?
Bill Bates: No question. Every player would love to play for an owner that truly makes the players feel like he cares for each one as a player and a person. It’s really cool because once you’re in the family, he treats you like a family member. I can remember after Super Bowls; instead of getting on the bus, I got on the helicopter with Jerry, Steve, his family, and took off and watched everyone leaving the game. Then we took the chopper back to the team hotel. It felt very special, and I still consider him a family member now.
Alex Kenney: Take us on a little journey. How does someone go from being undrafted to playing 15 seasons, with three Super Bowl rings, and a Pro Bowl?
Bill Bates: Well that journey is truly an act of god, an act of belief in myself, as well as coaches and teammates that helped me form myself into a good NFL player. In high school I had a star on my helmet and a 40 on my chest, so I was a Dallas Cowboy. Now, I knew that, but the Cowboys didn’t at the time. Of course I realized I had to play college football before I could be a Cowboy, so I made a little four year stop at the University of Tennessee which was a dream come true. My coach in high school, Ken Sparks, told me shoot for the stars because you never know when you may reach your star.
Then the draft came around. I wasn’t considered very big or very fast. I thought I was going to be drafted very high, but then I ran the 40-yard dash and I found out that wasn’t going to happen (laughs). Back then there were 12 rounds in the draft and I was not one of those picks. When the guys came to tell me I was the 13th round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys I thought that was the greatest thing ever. So, I signed a contract and did everything I could do before training camp. When I got to California I got one of six buses headed to camp. Now I’m thinking, “hey I’m the 13th round draft pick for the Cowboys, I guess there must be the 49ers, Chargers, Rams, and Raiders draft picks all going to practice together.”
It turns out there were 185, 13th round draft picks for the Dallas Cowboys. I was shocked and felt maybe I wasn’t that important. One thing I did was go to the locker room and make sure I had a locker. Sure enough, there was my high school jersey, helmet, and uniform just sitting in my locker. And I remember thinking, “man, this is awesome.” I knew it was going to be hard, so I always went out early and did special teams work. I figured that would be the quickest way to get on the field. Fortunately, I was put in situations where I could play special teams and play it well enough to become a Dallas Cowboy.
My dream came true and I always talk about that. You have dreams and keep those dreams high because you never know when you may reach them. Along the way, remember to count your blessings and strive to get better each and every day.
Alex Kenney: Wow! Blind Side seems to be making enough money, might need to do the Bill Bates story!
Bill Bates: Well, it’s been talked about. To be honest we have a buddy in New York that I went to high school with. I have a book that wrote back in 1994. They were thinking about trying to do a movie. So we’ll see if God has it in his plans, and hopefully we can change people’s lives in a positive way.
Alex Kenney: You coached at Nease while Tim Tebow was there. There’s been a huge debate as to whether or not he can be an NFL QB. What’s your take?
Bill Bates: He can be an NFL quarterback. There are a lot of people out there that are competitive and have the “It” – Factor, but they aren’t very good football players. But this guy has the It – Factor and the intangibles, he’s just a football player. He’s going to make plays for you. He’s going to help your team be a good team. He makes everyone better. Of course he’s got some growing to go through, make some changes and work on mechanics, but that’s one guy that can definitely do that, change.
Alex Kenney: We know you have two sons playing college football and they both play defense. How does their play stack up to their old man’s?
Bill Bates:(Laughs) Well, I know that one of them is a lot faster than me; actually, both of them are probably faster than I ever was. That’s one advantage they do have. One thing that I can tell you about this season is we had Bates Boys in back to back weeks recovering onside kicks. We know right there, that the special teams came out of them.
Alex Kenney: What are you doing to stay busy; any business ventures or other pursuits?
Bill Bates: Yes. Being a guy from Tennessee it’s hard to believe that I have a football shoulder pad business of air conditioned shoulder pads. The University of Florida has the patent for them and we have the license to sell the system, and that’s kind of hard for a Tennessee boy to be doing something for the University of Florida. But it’s a great product, and it’s catching on. It helps players stay healthy and prevents them from having heat illness.
Alex Kenney: We realize you were a professional, but is there any advice you could give those who aspire to have careers in the sports industry?
Bill Bates: If you’ve been in sports then you understand the competitive nature of sports and it is important to be competitive, and don’t fear being competitive. If you’re going to enter sports in any way you will be much more respected if you do your best, do what’s right, and treat others the way they want to be treated. Now that’s much easier said than done, but living by the golden rule will help you out a lot.
Alex Kenney: From your journey you shared with us, we see you got your start on special teams. I guess there’s no better way to put this, you guys seem like you are a little bit crazy. Running down the field as fast as you can and just trying to smack somebody. Tell us a little bit about what that’s like.
Bill Bates: You have to have a toughness about you, vision, and timing to play special teams. All of that is about being a good defensive player also. Having a good feel for where everyone is going when covering kicks. For some reason I’ve always had the ability to do that. I had the vision and the understanding of how fast I was, which wasn’t very fast, and how to intersect at my opponent to be able to make tackles and make plays.
Alex Kenney: So you guys are always in the moment.
Bill Bates: Yeah, we’re a little whack.
Alex Kenney: Being a Tennessee guy how do you feel about Lane Kiffin?
Bill Bates: I was very disappointed that he was there less than a year, but I understand that things happen for a reason. He’s going to his dream job coaching out at USC. It’s a great opportunity for him since he’s kind of a California boy. Hopefully our new guy fits the bill of a Tennessee coach.
Alex Kenney: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Bill Bates: Johnny Unitas when I was 8, 9, and 10. As I moved on, it was Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris — great safeties with the Dallas Cowboys.
Alex Kenney: Who’s your pick to win the Super Bowl?
Bill Bates: Indianapolis Colts of course. They got a Tennessee guy at quarterback. And there’s not a Florida Gator quarterback in this Super Bowl is there (laughs)? I don’t believe there is anyway. But I know there is a Tennessee guy in there.
Club Seat thanks Bill Bates for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions for us!