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Bates credits FHS at Knox Hall induction

The emblem on the sides of Bill Bates’ helmets at Farragut High School and later with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, the blue star, was perhaps a prophetic symbol on two fronts.

“I had big dreams, dream and shoot for the stars, you never know, you may just reach your dream,” Bates, 44, said just minutes prior to his formal induction into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame during the 24th Annual GKSHF Dinner and Induction Ceremony Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Bates remembers his Farragut school experience as being full of stars.

Giving credit to those helping build his success and notoriety as a hard-hitting defensive back who helped Dallas win three Super Bowl rings in the 1990s, Bates pointed to his FHS and middle school years (1972-1979).

“That was coach [Ken] Sparks and Bob Henry [Farragut Middle School basketball coach], coach [Herky] Payne, coach [Bill ] Clabo [FHS head football coach, 1961-76] and lot of people who were associated with Farragut football,” he said.

“The thing that made Farragut and our program when we were there, we had so many people that cared,” Bates added. “Now that I’m older, I realize how the other people, the booster club, the coaches and the people that supported the program, cared. And they cared for the players to be good and they wanted to students and players to have a good experience. We had the best equipment, they built a new stadium and they got involved. ... they wanted the students to be the best people they could be.

“And that’s what made a big impression on me about looking back on it now, that there was a great commitment that a lot of family members put in to help us be as good as we were when I was there. ... from the sixth grade to my senior year [at FHS] I had so many people that influenced my life in a positive way.”

Payne, former Farragut defensive backs coach, head baseball coach and1998 Knoxville Hall of Fame inductee, labeled Bates “one of my finest in Knoxville, a great athlete,” he said. “A great kid. ... You know what they say about this kid, he hit people, he hit people, that was his quality.”

Bates, who went from FHS to the University of Tennessee as a standout defensive back (1979-82), said Payne “started me in weight training.”

“That was before Ken Sparks took the job at Farragut,” Payne said, adding that during Sparks’ reign [1977-79], “We had the finest high school program you could imagine. ... Billy was at Farragut at a great time, and we had a lot of good athletes there.”

Among those “good” athletes were some of Bates’ closest friends. “Memories of school go back to the buddies I had, Jeff York, Tim Beeler ...,” Bates said. “I was very lucky.”

Former UT and NFL standout offensive lineman Tim Irwin, a 2001 Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame inductee who spoke on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, said he worked out with Bates and fellow 2005 inductee brothers, UT and NFL standout linemen Raleigh and Reggie McKenzie.

“Those three guys know how to work, and that’s why they’re here today,” Irwin said.

Giving back for all he received in Farragut, Bates recently established the Bill Bates Foundation For Children in Dallas, which raises money for organizations that help children.

Bates lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., with his wife, Denise, and their five children: Graham, Brianna, Hunter, Tanner and Dillon.


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