Bengals rookie safety Jessie Bates III making the transition to an NFL stage

Updated: June 20, 2018
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Being a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, it has instilled in me the desire to follow athletes from our city who have an opportunity to play at a professional level. Whether it’s James Blackmon Jr. chasing his dreams in the NBA, or Jaylon Smith tackling running backs on Sundays for the Dallas Cowboys.

The new athlete to keep an eye on from Fort Wayne is Cincinnati Bengals rookie safety Jessie Bates III.

Bates was a second-round pick (54th overall) in the 2018 NFL draft. If it wasn’t for his late-season injury while at Wake Forest, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s been getting countless opportunities early on in Bengals OTAs, and it appears he’ll be receiving a plethora of playing time. The Bengals’ organization is blessed to have such a hard-working, wise young man who will be contributing some big-time plays very soon on Sundays.

We were able to catch up with the rookie safety to talk about his emotions and memories on draft night, what camp has been like, his first big purchase as an NFL player and much more.

DC: So let’s go back to draft night on April 27. How were your emotions when you found out the Cincinnati Bengals were going to select you with the 54th pick?

Bates: Going back to draft night, I just can remember everything from that night. It was just so special for me, along with my family and friends that came to my draft party. I could, and will, forever remember every moment of that night I enjoyed with special people.

DC: We’re getting closer to the start of high school football. I’m curious, were any memories from your time at Snider High School crossing your mind on draft night?

Bates: Man Snider is where it really began for me as a person and as a football player. Thanks to Coach Tipp and the rest of the staff for developing me as a man and as a football player. It says a lot, too, because not only are they my high school football coaches, they have been a part of my life since I left that program. And having them at the draft party means a lot and says a lot about Snider’s program. I could talk about high school football all day — I created a lot of memories that’ll stick with me for a long time.

DC: I’ve read some articles that say you’ve been getting some significant time and snaps. How has everything been so far as an NFL player?

Bates: Yes, coming in and getting reps with the 1’s all OTAs and mini camp has been great for me because it forces me to play and communicate like a vet. If I don’t do those two things, the vets won’t have confidence in me doing my job. It slows their play down, which is never good. I feel like the transition has been very smooth. It’s just the beginning and I’m excited to contribute this year and put on for Fort Wayne.

DC: How important is it to establish a connection/relationship with other guys from Fort Wayne that have made it to the NFL? (Jaylon Smith, Tyler Eifert)

Bates: It’s great to have guys from your hometown be where you wanna be. It helps with confidence knowing that it’s possible to come out of small Fort Wayne. But being able to use those guys as resources and learn from them has been great. The fact I can ask questions about things that will come up that they’ve experienced before is very important, because it makes you more prepared for it and [you] try to take away the good things and mistakes they’ve made. Now for me taking the step, I can’t wait to do the same for all the upcoming athletes we have coming out of Fort Wayne.

DC: Are you more nervous or anxious for training camp, and why?

Bates: I would say I am anxious for training camp. I wouldn’t say nervous because I feel a lot comfortable where I am and knowing the older guys now. I know what to expect now and just anxious to see what my role will be for my rookie year!

DC: What does it mean to you to be able to play in your home state for Week 1 against the Colts?

Bates: Playing Week 1 in Indy will be awesome. Sucks I can’t get everyone tickets, which will be hard for me to tell my family, but I look forward to coming home and hopefully being able to come back in the home state and have the same impact as I did last time I played in my home state at IU when I received my first interception, and first pick-6 while I was at Wake forest in front of my family. Then most importantly start the season with a win will be awesome!

DC: I know most players say I’m looking forward to every game, but what’s a couple of key games you’re looking most forward to on the schedule?

Bates: A couple of games I am looking forward to is playing the Colts Week 1 obviously. I look forward to playing the Steelers, just because that’s our rival and the hype behind that game is pretty cool to me. Going back to North Carolina Week 3 will be nice. Hopefully I can see Wake fans there at that game. And last is the Raiders, seeing one of my best friends from Wake (linebacker Marquel Lee) and being able to jersey swap with him will be awesome.

DC: What was your first big purchase as a professional football player?

Bates: I haven’t made a huge purchase yet. I took some of my boys to the Cavs Game 6 vs. the Celtics, and I’ll probably do something big for my mother for her wedding day coming up at the end of the month.

DC Hendrix

Report for Sideline Sports Report. Producer/Host for ESPN 1380 in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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