Phillip Bates has been playing football since he was six years old and there is no doubt that he knows the game. But this Omaha, Neb., native is excited for a Cyclone football season that will undeniably be unlike any other.
Bates, a quarterback who shattered a number of records while at Omaha-North High School, joined the Cyclones in their summer workouts on Monday at 6 a.m. He said the workouts have gone well so far.
"Itís something different because coming from high school you really donít get a chance to do any of the things you do in college," said Bates. "I can see improvement, just in a couple of days."
Bates began his football career at an early age, but didnít begin to take the sport seriously until his sophomore year of high school. Instead, he went into his freshman year of high school with a future in basketball in mind.
"I came to high school wanting to play basketball," said Bates. "I had a good freshman year and I really wasnít thinking about football all that much."
But after experiencing more success on the gridiron than expected the following season, he retired his basketball shoes and stuck with football and track.
His fatherís successful college football career at Nebraska and stints in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs were a definite influence in Batesí athletic background.
"It came natural that we played sports," said Bates.
Bates developed into Omaha-Northís starting quarterback as a junior and quickly became a dual threat to opposing defenses. At the completion of his senior season, Bates had set several new records at Omaha-North. He holds the mark for total offensive yards gained (3,678) and total passing yards (2,963) while playing just two seasons. He also holds the schoolís career completion percentage best at 50.5 percent, among other records.
Bates chose to come to Iowa State after speaking with ISU head coach Gene Chizik in the latterís first days as the new head coach.
"He [Chizik] called me a few days after he got the job and he told me I was the first player he called," said Bates. "He told me that he still wanted me to play here. It never felt like we fell off at any point. There were other schools that I thought about, but in the end, this is the place I want to be."
Though Bates is new to Ames, he has already acquainted himself with the Cyclone faithful. Bates met up with the Cyclone Tailgate Tour in hometown Omaha on June 5. He was impressed by the cardinal and gold turnout.
"I was like Ďwhoa!í" said Bates. "Coming from Nebraska, there are a lot of Nebraska fans, but there are a lot of Iowa State fans too. I was excited to see that."
While meeting some of the Cyclone family was a positive eye-opener for Bates, the trip also had a personal significance. The Tailgate Tour visited more than 300 children at the Omaha Boys and Girls club, a group in which Bates was a member in his youth.
"It was crazy. Thatís where you meet everybody growing up," said Bates. "Everybody hangs out down there. It was exciting. I felt like a role model for a lot of them."
Bates will use his early encounters with Cyclone players, coaches and fans to help him transition to NCAA Division I football. He said he is ready for the season to begin and nerves arenít a factor.
"Iím not nervous," said Bates. "Iím really excited. I want to come out here and do whatever it is I need to do. Iím looking forward to just getting a chance to play and compete for a Big 12 Championship and more."