You probably won’t catch John Bates finding any excuse to dance shirtless or spouting out nuggets of knowledge like “yo soy fiesta.”
But Bates can take plenty from New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, football-wise.
“I really tried to watch a lot of (Gronkowski’s) film in the offseason, kind of learning how he runs his routes, how he goes up and attacks the ball,” said the Boise State sophomore tight end.
Bates is a big target, listed at 6-foot-6 and 247 pounds. For the normally reserved Bates, the next step is learning how to use that size as a weapon like the five-time Pro Bowler.
“That’s something I really want to focus on,” Bates said. “It’s something I really tried to take pride in coming into school. Throughout the course of my redshirt year, I kind of lost that. That’s one of those things I had to figure out and still have to figure.”
After redshirting the 2016 season, Bates went into last year behind a gaggle of veterans, but played in all 14 games. With Jake Roh out the final three games of the season, Bates started twice and had three catches for 34 yards. His first catch came in the road finale at Fresno State, and not having caught the ball in two years, it startled him a bit.
“It was like on a checkdown or something. I just caught it and was like ‘oh crap, I’ve got the ball in my hands,’” he said.
Now, with Roh and Alec Dhaenens graduated, Bates’ three catches were the most of returning tight ends in 2018. His continued growth, mentally and physically (he’s 40 pounds heavier than when he signed), could certainly help make up for their loss.
“He’s in much better shape than he’s ever been in,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s a target in the red zone, a big tall guy. We have an opportunity to use him there.
“He’s going to be a good player for us when it’s all said and done ... he’s going to be a factor and a threat out there.”
Harsin said giving Bates this spring, plus summer and another fall camp should continue to improve himself as a well-rounded tight end. He said that his senior year of high school he had his hand on the ground “maybe once or twice,” so blocking is a constant focus.
Tight ends coach Kent Riddle said Bates has gained confidence after seeing major playing time late in the season, and it has carried over into the spring.
“He’s starting to come into his (own), controlling his body a little better,” senior quarterback Brett Rypien said. “... he’s put on a lot of weight since he’s been here. I remember when he first came in, he ran like a horse, and he’s starting to get back there again, starting to really move and do some good things down the field.”
Bates’ potential, plus some others with experience like senior Chase Blakley and junior Matt Pistone, has Riddle confident the group can continue to be productive. For Bates’ part, he has very high hopes for himself.
“Still got a long ways to go … there’s still a lot of things I want to be able to accomplish,” Bates said. “I just want to be dominant out there.”
Spring game information
The football team’s spring game will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium. Tickets are $10, all general admission, and can be purchased at the athletic ticket office that day, or at BroncoSports.com/tickets.
Free parking is available across campus, with the exception of the West Stadium Lot, which will be reserved for Stueckle Sky Center guests. The Sky Center will open at 1:30 p.m., and the main stadium gates (A, D, N and P) will open at 2:15 p.m. Also, 2018 schedule posters will be available for the first 5,000 fans.
Following the game, access to the Blue will be available to all attendees.
Before the game, the 2018 Hall of Fame class will be recognized. Boise State will hold its annual gear sale at the Allen Noble Hall of Fame, from noon to 2 p.m. for BAA members, and to the general public starting at 2 p.m. Fans also may tailgate at DeChevrieux Field and check out 2018 season tailgating options.