When Dallas Cowboys Owner and GM Jerry Jones inducted Drew Pearson, Larry Allen, and Charley Haley in to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, it brought the total to 20 men (18 players plus Tom Landry and Tex Schramm) in the Ring. It also sparked questions about whether Charley Haley deserved to be in The Ring, and that controversy led some of us to start thinking about who should be the next to get inducted in to the Ring.
We decided to let you, the Dallas Cowboys faithful, determine which Cowboy player(s) most deserve to be in the Ring of Honor. We will continue providing profiles for the 10 finalists this week. If you want to read about the methodology we used to create the list of 10 finalists or the 3 players who received Honorable Mentions for almost making the Top 10, please click here. You can also read about the previous candidates in the Top 10 here.
This weeks Candidate for the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor: Bill Bates.
We pointed out last week that making interceptions was the one constant throughout Everson Wall’s football career. Bill Bates was also known for one thing: hitting people hard.
I remember being a kid and hearing an interview with one of the Cowboys players, and he said that Bill Bates was so intense, and he liked hitting people so much, that Coach Landry had to talk to him about ‘toning it down in practice’ because Bates was injuring his teammates. From that moment on, the name Bill Bates always stood for effort and toughness. I was fascinated by this man who could hit people hard enough to hurt even the ones that were bigger than him. The recklessness with which he played the game always seemed to epitomize the game of football and the men who played it.
The best thing about learning about Bill Bates when you were a kid was that his story made a bunch of us young boys believe that we could be successful, even if we weren’t the most naturally gifted, just by having the desire and drive to excel. Watching Bill Bates cover kickoffs and punts helped me discover that physical toughness wasn’t all that physical, it was more about attitude, desire, and sheer will.
Like our previous candidate Everson Walls, Bill Bates entry into the NFL was unceremonious. Despite being a 4-year starter at the University of Tennessee (2 at free safety and 2 at strong) and returning punts, Bates was not selected in the NFL Draft. He was drafted by the USFL’s New Jersey General’s, but he elected to sign with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent.
Bates made the Cowboys roster as a special teams player. Rumor has it that Bates effort, dedication, intensity, and competitiveness impressed Coach Landry so much, that Landry kept him on the team to be an example to the rest of the roster despite the fact that Bates wasn’t likely to be a starter.
The 1983 Dallas Cowboys had a very impressive secondary, including: Everson Walls, Dennis Thurman, Michael Downs, Dexter Clinksdale, Ron Fellows, and Rod Hill.
Bill Bates was a stand-out on special teams as a rookie, earning the NFC Special Teams Player of the Year.
Previous profiles for the Candidates for the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor have suggested that one of the criteria for entry into the Ring, although not always necessary, is a football career that changed or affected the way the NFL football was played.
Bill Bates changed the way everyone thought about special teams players. His impact in the games he played was so significant, that the NFL changed the way it selected players for the Pro Bowl. In just his 2nd year as a Cowboy, the NFL decided to create an additional roster spot for the Pro Bowl teams specifically for special teams players. Bates was the first NFL player to ever make the Pro Bowl based exclusively on special teams play.
He was also named an All-Pro in 1984.
Bates would eventually win the starting job at strong safety, playing there during 1986, 1987, and 1988. Starting in 1989, Bates was used on special teams and in nickel packages.
Bates would continue playing for the Dallas Cowboys until the end of the 1997 season (he missed the 92 season due to injury, but earned the Ed Block Courage Award after the 1993 season for overcoming the injury).
His 15 seasons as a Cowboy ties him with Ed Jones and Mark Tuinei for the most seasons ever played wearing the star. He was on three Super Bowl winning teams (XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX).
He also won the Bob Lilly Award, given to a player who exhibits leadership and good character off the field, four years in a row from 1990 to 1994.
Bates currently still runs a cattle ranch in North Dallas.
While other players may have more individual accomplishments, few players have ever epitomized what it means to be a Dallas Cowboy like Bill Bates.