As I read the Dallas Cowboys article off of dallascowboys.com, about finding a diamond in the rough as far rookie free agents, my thoughts immediately went to the diamond that shined during my younger years as a Cowboys fan.
Bill Bates was an undrafted rookie free agent in 1983, as he was a long shot to make the squad. Bates not only made the squad that season, but for 15 seasons; he was always one of those players talked about during the preseason as “having to work to make the team.” Mainly playing on special teams, he played some safety and linebacker throughout his career.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite for his hard hits, Bates worked every season, revolutionizing the Special Teams position including forcing the NFL to make a special roster spot on the NFC Pro Bowl team in 1984. Seeing number 40 out on the field usually meant if you were in his way, you were going to get a hit you would remember. Bates patience and hard work paid off as the Cowboys won 2 Super Bowls, one of which Bates couldn’t play in due to a season ending knee injury during the 1992 season(Super Bowl XXVII against the Buffalo Bills, 52-17). He worked hard during the offseason, determined not to miss a chance at a second World Championship, which happened as the Cowboys routed the Buffalo Bills a second time, winning 30-13.
Even now, as I see the roster evolve over the last few seasons and I see a player wearing Bates number, I always wonder…is he worthy? Fans that were watching Tom Landry grace the sidelines during the 80’s can certainly relate.
Of course, I can’t forget the current rookie free agents as of late that are a part of the team now, most notably Tony Romo and Miles Austin. Romo and Austin are by far the most popular of this generation of fans, but remembering the old guard isn’t too bad either. Their chapters of their football careers are still being written, my question to you the fans….when you see a new player wearing their numbers, will you think “is he worthy?”
Bates was a diamond in the rough, just makes you wonder who the next Bill Bates is.