Former PSU OL Ryan Bates on Eagles opportunity
Ryan Bates watched from the Lincoln Financial Field stands in 2018 as Nick Foles guided Philadelphia to Super Bowl LII.
The former Penn State offensive lineman looked on as the underdog Eagles throttled the Minnesota Vikings, 38-7, in the NFC Championship and the dog masks came out. And, after tailgating with his friends prior to the game, Bates celebrated Philly’s NFC title with a run down Broad Street.
Bates — who went to high school 30 miles from the Linc, who grew up “bleeding green” — was an Eagles fan when Doug Pederson’s club hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. Now, the former Nittany Lion is trying to help his hometown team to another championship.
Bates is an Eagle. An undrafted Eagle, but an Eagle nonetheless. And as team OTAs begin Tuesday, Bates is out to prove to Pederson and the staff that he deserves to make the 53-man roster — that he deserves to stay an Eagle.
“I’m excited,” Bates told the CDT after his first day of rookie minicamp earlier this month. “I grew up right down the road in Bucks County. ... It’s a dream come true.”
It’s also the best fit for Bates professionally. At least, it is in his mind. That’s why he chose Philly among a host of suitors.
Bates didn’t hear his name called on April 27. A projected Day 3 pick by Scouts Inc. expert Steve Muench after declaring early and forgoing his final year of eligibility, the Warrington native was disappointed not to be selected. He called watching every pick go by, from Kyler Murray to Caleb “Mr. Irrelevant” Wilson, “stressful.”
But shortly after the seventh round concluded, Bates chatted with his agent, and both decided it was in the best interest to act on Philadelphia’s UDFA interest.
“Depth-wise, the offensive line right now has some injuries and people getting old,” Bates said. “It was a good opportunity for me to come into an organization and make a name for myself.”
Bates has a point. Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks is out indefinitely with an injured Achilles, left tackle Jason Peters is 37 years old, and center Jason Kelce has contemplated retirement on several occasions.
However, the Eagles moved up to draft Washington State tackle Andre Dillard in the first round this year to eventually replace Peters. And a day after Bates met with the media, Philly re-signed former Nittany Lion and eight-year NFL veteran Stefen Wisniewski to again serve as the team’s center/guard backup and possible starter.
Making the 53-man roster will be an uphill climb. But Bates’ old high school coach believes in him.
Steve Devlin — Archbishop Wood’s former head coach, now the defensive coordinator at Ursinus College — saw the lineman’s versatility first-hand for four years. Bates was recruited as an edge blocker; he was the No. 11 tackle in the 2015 recruiting class, per 247 Sports. But Bates played both tackle and guard to create mismatches for the Vikings, who utilized a potent rushing attack to capture back-to-back PIAA Class 3A titles in 2013 and 2014.
“We did a lot of things with him because of his versatility and athleticism,” Devlin said.
The same versatility and athleticism that Bates showed in Happy Valley. A three-year stalwart at Penn State, Bates played mostly tackle, but also started at guard and practiced at center early in his career. He was seen snapping the ball to Trace McSorley at Penn State’s Pro Day in February, too.
“I’m focused on tackle now,” Bates said. “But whatever position they want me to play — center, guard, whatever — I’m just going to be the best player I can be.”
Added Devlin: “Ryan’s a guy who is going to make the best of his opportunities. He’s going to show people that he can play football and how athletic he is.”
Bates hopes to parlay that athleticism into a roster spot with the Eagles. And the next few weeks will go a long way in determining his fate. The 53-man roster won’t be decided until September, but Philadelphia has offseason workouts scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, May 28, May 30-31 and June 3-6 before mandatory minicamp from June 11-13.
Regardless of what the future holds, Bates is enjoying the opportunity he has right now, wearing the colors he rocked as a kid.
When asked what 12-year-old Ryan Bates would say about him playing for the Eagles, the lineman responded: “Holy s***.” And how did Bates’ friends at Archbishop Wood react when he told them he’d be an Eagle? “Holy s***.”
Imagine what they’ll say if Bates makes the team.