Dillon Bates leaning on his family


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 linebacker Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra, Fla./Ponte Vedra) is no stranger to the game of football. His well-known father, Bill Bates, starred at Tennessee and had a 15-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. His older brothers Graham and Hunter played college football at Arkansas State and Northwestern, respectively. But Dillon, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker, is working on making his own name.

Bates holds over 20 offers and has narrowed down his choices to a top five of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Texas and South Carolina, but recently added an offer from Florida State. The four-star Under Armour All-American, who will announce his decision at The Opening in July, admitted he was excited to learn of the Seminoles offer.

"It's really intriguing and humbling to know that all the schools in Florida have offered me," Bates said. "Just the feeling that I can go anywhere in Florida and everything. Just the prestigious school like FSU and all the great players that have come from FSU -- it's just really great to know that I could be among them."

Though he has a top five, that doesn’t mean other schools are out of the running.

"I'm still taking a hard look at Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma also," he said. "I like the integrity of those schools -- just knowing that I could be a part of that and be a part of their tradition is humbling and pretty cool."

Bates still has relatives in Knoxville and is more familiar with Tennessee than any other program.

"I definitely have a better look at them with my dad being there and having played there," he said. "It's definitely good having an inside view of Tennessee and getting a better chance to get to know the coaches and know the program itself."

The Bates family has extensive ties to the Volunteers, but Bill wants his youngest son to make an informed decision and he'll do whatever he can to help him with the process.

"The whole thing is for him to enjoy it," Bill Bates said. "He's worked awfully hard to get to this point. That means many hours in the weight room and running and competing on and off the field. Because this only comes around once, the things that happen to him only happen to a few people, so enjoy it the best you can. You'll make the right decision because the Lord has a plan for you.

"All these great schools that are great football schools. I just want him to make the right choice and go where he's comfortable. Florida is where we live right now, so why wouldn't the University of Florida be in the mix? Tennessee obviously, we have family up there and there are a lot of memories with playing there. But I want him to make the decision. All this time with recruiting, it's not about me, it's been about them and enjoying the process. Go where you feel most comfortable. That's all I can tell him."

Dillon Bates admitted he already has an idea of where he will choose, but said his father’s advice has been invaluable.

"He's always told me now that I have offers -- now that I have everything, I'm going to be playing at the next level no matter what," Dillon said. "So you know now it's all about what I can do as a player and as a person to make myself better. In the weight room, never taking reps off and at practice just getting as much work as I can. That will separate me from instead of just being a good player -- a great player and instead of a great player -- the best player I can be.

"My family and all have been making it my decision 100 percent and where and when I feel comfortable to make my decision there is no pressure coming from anywhere. I really appreciate that, knowing that I can take as much time as I can to really make sure it's 100 percent what I want to do."

Bill, now an assistant coach at Ponte Vedra, admits his son has more athletic ability than he did and thinks his son is just as competitive as he was when he played.

"The one thing he's got, that I never had and neither did my other boys, is length and height," the former Cowboy star said. "He's faster than all of us were and especially faster than I was. He likes to compete. I always tried to tell my boys, when you are playing any sport, it can be ping pong or badminton, I don't care what it is, compete and give it all you got. You don't want to look back on your life and say 'oh I wish I'd have done this or I wish I would have done that.' Basically, he's just a competitor and he wants to win."

Dillon, who said he will likely visit Alabama before making a decision, knows what he wants in the school he decided to attend.

"I'm looking for somewhere that I can be comfortable for the next four to five years," he said. "It's somewhere I'm going to be living and making friends and making memories for the rest of my life so I want to go there knowing that I'm going to be around the same people I want to be with and play at the highest level I can."