Gates now athlete for two seasons
Edmund Gates is a basketball player. Has been all his life.
He'd given football a chance, playing his sophomore year of high school. But otherwise, Gates was strictly a round-ball guy.
Standing 5-foot-7, Gates was a backup point guard at Vernon High School and went on to play two years at Tyler Junior College as a walk-on.
When his first cousin, running back Bernard Scott, decided to transfer from Blinn to Abilene Christian University, Gates (who grew to 6-2 following his first season at Tyler) decided he'd come along and try to earn a spot on Jason Copeland's basketball team.
He did. But, as it turned out, the junior also made another roster.
"Over the summer I was working out with (strength and conditioning coach David) Hess, and he told me I was a pretty fast guy," Gates said. "He wanted to get me bigger and stronger, and I did, and he told me I should come out to two-a-days to see if I liked it.
"I had to talk with coach (Chris) Thomsen, and asked him what he'd think of me playing football. He was like, 'Well, son, I don't even know you.' But we got to meet each other and he let me come out for two-a-days. I started liking it, so I stayed."
Thomsen said it was easy to see that Gates had the athletic ability necessary to play.
"Just seeing him out there playing around, catching with Bernard and (quarterback) Billy (Malone) and some of those guys, we could tell he could run, has good size and could catch the ball," he said. "He came in one day and said he wanted to try to play football and asked us to give him a shot. We're glad we did."
Gates hasn't been an every-down player for the Wildcats this season, but he's started twice and played in eight games. Used primarily as a kick returner and a specialty-play guy, Gates has five kick returns for 132 yards, an average of 26.4 per attempt.
He's got seven catches for 226 yards (32.3 yards per catch) and one score and has added 10 carries for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Do the math and, on 22 touches, this basketball player has accumulated 538 all-purpose yards
"That's real rare," Thomsen said of Gates' success despite little prior football experience. "I've never really heard of anything like it."
Gates' most recent score came in the record-setting 70-63 win at Tarleton State two weeks ago, The play officially was a 73-yard run, but Gates ran closer to 125 as, on a reverse, he found nothing and reversed field, going all the way back to the opposite sideline before breaking away for the score. He also hauled in one catch in that win for 66 yards.
Expect Gates to see a few chances today in another big game at Midwestern State. Essentially, this is a playoff game for the Wildcats. With a win, the team will secure its second-straight trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs. A loss, though, might well bump ACU from the regional field.
"That (Tarleton game) felt great, because I knew that was a big-time game, and for me to step up and score a touchdown in that game was kind of amazing," Gates said. "I know I can make big plays in big games if I just relax and play my role."
And, while somewhat limited this season, that role looks as if it may well expand next season, especially with the graduation of Abilene High product Jerale Badon.
"It's pretty neat. He's overcome some tough obstacles to get here, and just to see him have some success is really good," Thomsen said. "I know that the future is very bright for him. I think he can develop into a really good receiver on this level."