Former Snider standout Jessie Bates III gearing up for NFL Combine

Wake Forest's Jessie Bates III (3) returns a punt against Texas A&M for a touchdown during the first half of the Belk Bowl NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Every time he watched the NFL Combine broadcast, Jessie Bates III visualized the day he’d be on the other side of the camera.

Now that day is about a month away.

“I watch it every year,” Bates said. “I’ve tried to take certain things from each year, watching the great DBs (defensive backs) that have done it well. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Bates, who declared his eligibility for the NFL Draft after three years and two seasons playing safety at Wake Forest University, received an invitation this week to participate in the 2018 NFL Combine.

The Combine is a mixture of track meet, weight-lifting competition, interview and psychological experiment intended to reveal which players are best suited for one of the coveted spots in the NFL Draft.

“It’s my biggest job interview,” Bates said, “but also my first.”

The NFL Combine begins interviews and orientation for some players on Feb. 27 and continues though March 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. Bates is scheduled to be on site beginning March 2.

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Bates, a Snider High School alum, is temporarily living in Tampa, Fla., training at the Applied Science & Performance Institute (ASPI), in conjunction with work with AWP Sports in Fort Wayne.

ASPI Director of Training Yo Murphy has been working with Bates to build toward an optimal performance at the Combine, where results of physical tests such as the 40-yard dash can mean the difference in draft round and roster opportunities. The better a player performs, the bigger the NFL opportunity can be.

Teams also spend time getting to know the players in off-field interviews.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking because you don’t know for sure what kind of questions they’re going to ask you during the interview process,” Bates said. “It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s a good nerve-wracking.”

Bates said he almost feels like his current regimen is like training for a track meet.

“This is my first time actually practicing the 40-yard dash,” he said. “I’m learning certain techniques. Sometimes I wish I would have focused on this more in the past. It’s a process and you can get frustrated. But the results are going to come as long as you put the work in and stay focused.”

Bates made a big impact at Wake Forest the last two seasons after redshirting as freshman in 2015. He tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with 70 solo tackles and also had five interceptions, returning two for touchdowns in 2016. He had 79 tackles (50 solo) with one interception, five pass breakups and six tackles for loss in 2017.

He made the decision to pursue a professional career not long after a Belk Bowl on Dec. 29, a game in which he returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown.

“The next couple months are going to be really big,” he said. “I want to makes sure I’m not only physically ready, but mentally ready.”