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Linebacker Dillon Bates glad to follow famous father’s footsteps at Tennessee

Football has always been a big deal in the Bill Bates household.

Bill Bates was a star at Farragut High School and the University of Tennessee. He helped the Dallas Cowboys win three Super Bowls during a 15-year career as a special teams demon and reserve defensive back.

Two of the Bates’ triplets played college ball, Hunter at Northwestern and Graham at Arkansas State.

Then along came Dillon Bates, the biggest, fastest and most athletic of the sons.

Dillon was the only one offered by Tennessee and the only one to sign with the Vols.

“My parents never pressured me into going to Tennessee,” said Dillon, a junior outside linebacker. “They wanted me to get every experience I could at every college and make my own decision.

“Being here at Tennessee, to have a family here and just having our history here, it felt most comfortable, and that was an easy decision.”

It was certainly an easy decision for Bates to play football.

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“It was just an awesome experience to be around the game at so young of an age, to be able to learn the game,” Dillon said. “I remember getting to run around the Cowboys’ football facility in my dad’s coaching days after he was done playing, and being around all those great players and great names.”

Not to mention older brothers playing high school football with Tim Tebow.

Who was his favorite Cowboy?

“Emmitt Smith,” Dillon said, “He’s the greatest running back of all time. You can’t hate him. Jason Witten is also a great guy, a VFL. There are just so many names in the Cowboys organization, great people, great football players.”

Against that backdrop, Dillon said there wasn’t pressure to play football.

“I played every sport imaginable,” Dillon said. “My parents never really forced me into playing football. I just kind of naturally fell in love with the game.”

Dillon also played basketball, baseball and lacrosse.

“My parents told me I didn’t have to stick to football,” Dillon said, “just play any sport you want and once you feel like a sport is feeling good to you in high school, you need to stick to that. Football just came kind of naturally, I guess.”

Bill Bates was not only a fan favorite at Tennessee, but a fan favorite among Cowboys. Some considered Bill too small and too slow to play in the NFL. But he was a terror on special teams, being named NFL special teams player on the year in 1983. He had 676 tackles, 18 sacks and 14 interceptions.

And, of course, he has those three Super Bowl rings.

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“There’s always been a little pressure to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Dillon said. “But they (parents) made it real easy on me and just tried to show a lot of love and be the best parents they could be and never really say football is it.

“There’s more to life than just football. There’s a lot of things I need to do to prepare myself for, for life after football, and I’ve felt they’ve done a really good job in preparing me for that and not pressuring me into being the best football player I could be. I’m blessed to have them as parents.”

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