Happy Birthday to former Cowboys safety Bill Bates!
He wasn’t considered big enough or fast enough to play in the NFL so he went undrafted in the 1983 NFL Draft. Although he was selected by the USFL’s New Jersey Generals in their territorial draft, he decided to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, which was his favorite team growing up.
Bates was a long shot to make the team but his heart and hustle earned him a roster spot on the team and a place in the hearts of all Cowboy fans. From the start he excelled playing special teams, being named “NFC special teams Player of the Year” as a rookie.
In 1984 he was selected to the Pro Bowl in just his second year — forcing the NFL to create a first-time roster spot for “special teams” players, becoming the first such player to receive that election, which is now a roster spot on all Pro Bowl teams. He was also elected All-Pro that season.
Tom Landry once said, “If we had 11 players on the field who played as hard as Bill Bates does and did their homework like he does, we’d be almost impossible to beat”.
In 1986 he became a starter at strong safety and remained there until 1988, after that he was used only in the Nickel defense packages.
At the end of the 1989 season, Jimmy Johnson informed Bates that he was going to be left unprotected on the team’s Plan B free agency list. And although the Minnesota Vikings were interested in him, just before the deadline, the Cowboys decided to protect him.
He received the team’s Bob Lilly Award four consecutive seasons from 1990 to 1994. This award is selected by a vote of the fans and annually goes to the Cowboy player who displays leadership and character on and off the field.
In 1992 he was lost for the season with a knee injury and after the 1993 season, he was selected by his teammates to receive the Ed Block Courage Award for successfully overcoming his injury.
Bates is tied with Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Mark Tuinei for the most seasons playing in a Cowboys uniform—with 15.
He played for the Cowboys for 15 seasons, earning 3 Super Bowl rings. Upon his retirement after the 1997 season, he was one of the most beloved Cowboys of all time. Over his 15 year career, Bill had 14 interceptions and 122 return yards.
Bates played in Super Bowl XXVIII and XXX (Bates injured his knee early in 1992 season when the Cowboys played in Super Bowl XXVII).