After a season on Seahawks’ practice squad, Omahan sets sights on making team - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm / Updated at 9:07 pm
FOOTBALL
After a season on Seahawks’ practice squad, Omahan sets sights on making team
Q&A with Phil Bates
Q: What was the night in Washington for the first round of the playoffs like?
A: I thought it was going to be a colder night, but it was actually kind of warm. It was electric. It just felt like a big game. They come out and RGIII throws a touchdown and they were rolling. Everything kind of just turned in our favor.

Q: After such a high that night, what was the flight back from Atlanta like a week later?
A: It was actually pretty cool. It wasn’t one of those situations where people were down and upset, but it was like ‘we did something here.’

Q: What’s it like going against that secondary in practice? Does it make you better?
A: Every day it does. That’s one of the best secondaries in the league. I get to go against these guys every day. Every one of them has been a Pro Bowler. You earn every catch you get.

Q: What’s something that people might not know about Russell Wilson?
A: Russ is a funny dude. He’s a crazy workaholic. That’s one guy you can’t say anything bad about. He’s the first guy in and the last guy out. Everyone calls him ‘robot,’ but he’s such a good dude.

— Nick Rubek

Undrafted rookie free agents have it hard enough.

Mix in a couple of All-Pros playing your position — names that appear on fantasy draft boards — and you’re in the position Phil Bates faced when he signed with the Seattle Seahawks last year.

The former Omaha North star remembered getting to camp in the summer of 2012 to find a stockpiled receiver position.

“Sidney Rice. Golden Tate. Braylon Edwards. Terrell Owens. Doug Baldwin,” he rattles off. “That was an eye-opener.”

Even so, Bates contended for a roster spot. He spent most of the 2012 season with Seattle, the final few months on the Seahawks’ practice team.

Now he wants more: a spot on Seattle’s active roster.

“You’ve got to keep moving,” he said. “Keep getting better.”

Bates said he had a “great” rookie minicamp last year, and he took plenty of snaps in the preseason. But he was released after the third preseason game.

He worked in Arizona at the transportation business owned by his father, Phillip Sr.

“He did a lot fueling up vehicles early in the morning,” said the elder Bates, a former Nebraska fullback. “I don’t think he even likes fueling up his own car anymore after that. When (Seattle) called him back, he told me, ‘I’ll never be back.’ That day job, it wasn’t for him.”

The Seahawks brought him back in October in time to witness one of the biggest stories of the season.

Behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, Seattle made the playoffs. The Seahawks went to Washington and ended Robert Griffin III’s sensational first season with the Redskins.

The next week, Seattle lost a late lead against Atlanta and missed a chance to play for the NFC championship on a field goal with eight seconds to play.

And the 23-year-old who wasn’t among the 253 players picked in the 2012 draft was there for all of it.

“I’m truly blessed,” he said recently while back in Omaha. “My journey is not what I expected, but it’s been interesting. And it’s worked out so far.”

A touted quarterback coming out of high school at North, Bates spent the 2008 season at Iowa State before transferring to Ohio University, where former Nebraska coach Frank Solich had taken over.

He played quarterback as a junior, running for 519 yards and throwing for 178. A major injury to his throwing shoulder turned Bates into a receiver his senior season, after which he attracted interest from a couple of teams leading up to the draft.

Bates said he had a great pro day and was hearing from teams that they’d like to sign him as a free agent receiver.

“I got a call not much before the draft from an assistant coach in Seattle,” he said. “They came and worked me out and told me they could help me grow as a receiver.”

Bates took the field early in his first preseason game, lining up and running a vertical route. He looked up and was sure the ball was heading his way.

“I was so amped that it looked like it was coming to me,” he said. “But it was actually going to Braylon Edwards on the complete other side of the field.”

Bates learned the ropes and worked to develop a role while spending the better part of the second half of the season on the practice squad.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder said he has a spot on every special teams unit. Even with the trade for star receiver Percy Harvin adding to an already crowded receiver corps, Bates is optimistic about his second year in the league.

“I have a lot of stuff that I still need to work on,” he said. “I just have to keep getting better. The key is always showing improvement and showing value, showing that you can do a multitude of things.”

Advice has come from all over. Former high school teammate Niles Paul has found a role in Washington. Ex-Nebraska cornerback Zack Bowman has spent five years in the NFL.

And then there’s dad, who spent time in the NFL after his career at Nebraska.

“We always believe that you are the author of your own story,” Bates Sr. said.

His son’s story has had a few twists, a couple of turns and a rewrite or two.

“I can honestly say my story may not have been picture perfect,” the younger Bates said. “but it was perfect for me.”

Contact the writer: Nick Rubek

nickrubek@gmail.com    |   402-850-0781    |  

Nick Rubek covers Nebraska football, Omaha Beef football and high school sports throughout the state, including football, wrestling and soccer.

Teen killed at Gallagher Park was shot in head as he sat in SUV, friend who was wounded says
Kelly: Creighton's McDermotts put good faces on an Omaha tradition
When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’
New UNO center strengthens ties between campus, community
USDA offers aid for disasters that have driven up beef prices
Threat found in Millard West bathroom deemed 'not credible'
Lincoln principal apologizes for flier advising students not to tattle on bullies
Union Pacific's profits withstand challenging weather
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87
Program gets students with disabilities on the job, ready for future
Obama: 8 million signed up for health care
Nebrasks health officials to advertise jobs via drive-thru
Group to study future of annual ISU Veishea celebration
Iowa insurance agency probed for overbilling
Mavs release 2014-15 schedule
Embattled Iowa Law Enforcement Academy official to retire
Iowa gaming commission rejects Cedar Rapids casino
UNO guard Jalen Bradley transferring to Northeast CC
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
Coral Walker named Omaha police officer of the year
Huskers get prime-time kickoff against Fresno State
What to watch: Season finale of Robin Williams' 'Crazy Ones'
A recap of what got done — and what didn't — in the 2014 legislative session
'The war is not over,' Chambers says, but legislative session about is
ON TWITTER »

TODAY'S LOCAL SCOREBOARD
Thursday's Top Events
PCL baseball
Round Rock at Omaha, 6:35 p.m. (Live stats)
College baseball
Villanova 6, Creighton 3

Game Time, TV/Radio Schedule
Thursday's Area Events
Thursday's TV/Radio Schedule
Friday's Area Events
Friday's TV/Radio Schedule

Prep Results
NEPrepZone.com (mobile)

Others
Holes in One
Dog Racing Results
Horse Racing Entries, Horse Racing Results
VIDEO »
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Dr. Welbes Natural Health Clinic
$129 for 2 LipoLaser Sessions with Additional Complimentary Services ($605 value)
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Blog: Dirk's 'Mad Chatter'
Dirk Chatelain offers his thoughts on the latest news from around the sports world, complete with links to the best articles, opinion columns, YouTube videos and more.
Civic Auditorium Timeline
World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel asked readers for their favorite memories of the Civic Auditorium. We combined their submissions with a few key events or moments in the auditorium's history.
CWS: Banner Years
The College World Series historical database, a growing home for historical information about past NCAA baseball championships, which have been played in Omaha since 1950.
Downtown Omaha event map
Discover the area surrounding the CenturyLink Center, TD Ameritrade Park and downtown Omaha -- including restaurants, arts & entertainment venues, hotels and local retail outlets.
Facebook: Tom Shatel's page
Get Tom Shatel's sports columns delivered straight to your Facebook feed.
Follow Tom Shatel on Twitter
Get instant analysis and commentary from World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel on Twitter.
Nebraska high school basketball's greatest night
Four elite teams. Two buzzer-beaters. One packed house. On March 11, 1989, the stars aligned and produced the best night in Nebraska high school basketball history.
Shatel's blog
Check out the latest from World-Herald sports columnist Tom Shatel.
Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports
Get World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel's book "Shatel: Tom's Take on 20 Unforgettable Years in Sports."
Super Bowl: Through the years
The Super Bowl is a yearly media madhouse. See how The World-Herald sports section's front pages portrayed each of the Super Bowl victories won by those players celebrated in our Mt. Rushmore of Super Bowl QBs.
Talk sports with World-Herald reporters
World-Herald reporters log on to talk about the latest news surrounding the Huskers, Jays, Mavericks, high schools sports and more. Check out the upcoming chat schedule or replay the latest discussions with the fans.
The disappearance of small-town football
Friday night lights across rural Nebraska are going dark. But one town, in its last season of gridiron independence, proved that school spirit is stronger than ever.
The Nebraska 100
In an historic 2005 series, The World-Herald selected the state’s all-time top 100 athletes. In a new web exclusive, see the digitized collection for the first time.
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »