May 09, 2019
There is a profile shot on Ryan Bates’ twitter page of a somewhat pudgy kid sitting on a couch with shades on and “Go Birds” embossed in black ink across his bare chest. Bates is quite a bit leaner and a little larger today. It’s an indication right there in that rather grainy pic that he knows the way. The 2015 Archbishop Wood and 2018 Penn State graduate won’t need a GPS to find the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex this week for NFL rookie minicamp. It’s a familiar trek for the former all-Catholic League standout from Warrington, Bucks County.
Bates, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman, is living a dream as a lifelong Eagles’ fan and now a potential player for the team he followed and cheered for his whole life as an undrafted free agent.
Like many Division I players from FBS Power Five conferences, he waited around two weeks ago to get a call from an NFL team during the draft. It never came. But once UCLA tight end Caleb Wilson’s name was called with the 254th and final pick on Saturday, April 27, Bates’ phone blew up with calls from NFL teams — one being the his beloved childhood Eagles.
“I waited to get a call,” recalled Bates, who graduated Penn State in December with a degree in labor and employment relations. “It was a stressful three days. I sat and watched the whole first round, all day Friday and had family and friends over on Saturday. There were a few times it happened where I saw guys get their names called and I might have questioned who they were. Around 7:02 on the last day (two minutes after the draft concluded), my agent called and told several teams, and one of them was the Eagles.
“The Rams were the first team to get in contact with me. They called in the beginning of the sixth round, and they had no more picks left. Then it was the Saints, and I was texting my agent throughout the day and around the seventh round, he told me Philly and Tampa Bay were interested. The Eagles gave me the best offer, and the Saints matched that offer.
“I grew up bleeding green. I always watched the Eagles, and when I was able to be home, I was either watching the Eagles or I was there. I watched the Super Bowl and went crazy like everyone in Philly when the Eagles won (Super Bowl LII). In a sense, I am living the dream. I grew up an Eagles’ fan and now I get a chance to make the team.
Bates brings a great work ethic and a good deal of athleticism to the Eagles’ o-line. His knock, however, according to NFL scouts, is that he has “T-Rex” arms that expand just 32.5 inches. It didn’t stop Bates from being one of the better left tackles in the Big Ten. After being redshirted his freshman year, Bates went on to play three years for the Nittany Lions, consistently grading as the program’s best offensive lineman.
He dressed for 40 games, appearing in 37 and starting 35 games. In his three-year stretch, Bates moved from left guard to right tackle, and finished this past season at left tackle.
Though, according to NFL scouts, and Bates himself, he may be more suited inside at either guard position and has been taking snaps at center, which he did in practice while at Penn State. His athletic measurables compare favorably to current Eagle guard Isaac Seumalo. His quick awareness, ability to move laterally and strong first step place him in the range of a young Jason Kelce.
I'll tell you this, I won’t need a GPS to get to the NovaCare Complex... I think it will hit me then. I’ll step back and think, ‘Holy sh*t, I’m playing for the Eagles.’
Though he didn’t make the offensive line calls at Penn State, Bates was very vocal from the tackle position.
“You know it’s funny, with the draft, everyone has an opinion, but I’m confident in my ability. I know what I can do on a football field,” said Bates, who won two state titles at Wood and a Big Ten championship at Penn State. “Playing in the Big Ten, I went against the best guys in the country. I feel good at 305, 306 pounds. It’s been a while since I snapped a ball in pads.
“It shouldn’t be a problem, but it will take some time to get down. The whole time through the pre-draft, a lot of teams expressed an interest in me at center and I did a lot of workouts there. I did a lot of workouts with me snapping the ball. I’ll be a swing guy with the Eagles, where I know they like me as a center and guard, primarily.”
Bates stressed that he wants to improve in every area.
“I definitely have a lot to improve on in everything — even though I’m pretty confident with my pass protection, I want get better on my run game,” Bates said. “I spoke to [Eagles’ offensive line] Coach [Jeff] Stoutland on [Saturday, April 27]. He’s a good guy. I can’t wait to work with him.
“This is going to be new. It’s been a long journey from high school to college and I’ve maintained a starting position for most of my life. I’m going from a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond.”
Bates will be joined at Eagles rookie minicamp by several fellow Penn Staters. Receiver Deandre Thompkins, running back Miles Sanders, who Bates blocked for, and Shareef Miller, a Washington High grad, who Bates went up against in practice at Happy Valley, will all be in attendance.
“I'll tell you this, I won’t need a GPS to get to the NovaCare Complex,” Bates said. “I’ll probably take 76 down, 95 sucks in traffic in certain times of the day. I can’t wait. I’m going to put my head down and get to work. I’m ready. I think it will hit me then. I’ll step back and think, ‘Holy sh*t, I’m playing for the Eagles.’”
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