Hometown Heroes

Hometown Heroes: Amphi star Michael Bates picked Arizona because of players, coaches & staying close to family

With Arizona gaining recently the commitment of 5-star Salpointe defensive end Elijah Rushing, the highest rated recruit in Wildcat history according to 247Sports, AllSportsTucson.com is reliving the decisions made by previous elite local standouts who stayed home and played for the Wildcats. Catch up on the series by clicking here.


High School: Amphi (Class of 1989)

Position: Running back

Size: 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds

Chose Arizona instead of attending: ASU, UCLA, USC or Nebraska

Amphi RB great Michael Bates rushed for more than 3,600 yards in his career with the Panthers (Tucson Citizen file photo)

High school accolades: Parade All-American. Unanimous selection to the Long Beach Press-Telegram Best of the West team. Arizona Republic’s Male Athlete of the Year following his senior season in 1988. Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year for 1988.

Quotable: “ASU has some nice new facilities now that the Cardinals are up there. I really liked their coaches (head coach Larry Marmie at the time) and their business college. The advantages of picking the UA were the players, coaches (head coach Dick Tomey) and the fact that I could be close to my family and play again with (older brother) Marion (a sophomore defensive back at the time who transferred from USC). The ‘Streak’ (UA’s 6-0-1 record vs. ASU at the time) wasn’t a factor, but I did take notice of the amount of bowl games ASU has been to (four in a 10-year span but one was the 1986 Rose Bowl). Running in UA’s track program over ASU’s really did not come into play for me, either.” — Michael Bates to the Tucson Citizen when he announced his decision of Arizona over ASU on Signing Day, Feb. 8, 1989.

Notable: Bates ran for 1,261 yards with 18 touchdowns as a senior at Amphi but had to sit out four games because of an ankle injury. He rushed for more than 3,600 yards in his career and became one of the nation’s top high school sprinters. … His signing by Arizona bucked the trend of local high-level recruits choosing other schools, such as Amphi linebacker Riki Gray-Ellison and Sahuaro quarterback Rodney Peete to USC, Sunnyside running back Fred Sims to Oklahoma, Amphi running back Jon Volpe to Stanford and Sunnyside quarterback Bobby Valdez to ASU. … Tomey told the Citizen that it was a “very long night” the night before Bates’ decision. “I went to bed feeling we were ahead, but I still had that sense of uncertainty,” Tomey said. … To win Michael Bates over, Tomey and Arizona’s coaches had to win his late mother Linda over. She raised her sons Marion, Michael and Mario on her own, and they put her on a pedestal. She was naturally by Michael’s side when he signed the letter of intent. “From time to time, I sit the three of them down,” Linda said of her sons to the Arizona Republic in a 1988 article. “I say, ‘Let’s talk,’ and they say, ‘We know what you’re going to say.’ I look at them and say, ‘No, you don’t.’ They think they know what I’m going to say and that’s when I come out of left field to them. I don’t want to control their lives or control their thoughts, but I want to bring them up in a way that they know exactly where they’re coming from.” … Bates’ time of 10.2 seconds in the 100 at Amphi made Tomey and his staff believe he would be most dangerous in open spaces as a receiver, not as a running back like he did for legendary Vern Friedli at Amphi. Friedli coached the run-based Wing-T offense at Amphi. … Tomey said he was most impressed with Bates as a person. “The thing that has always impressed me about Michael is what a great person he is and what a great team player he is,” Tomey told the Citizen. “It’s difficult for him to understand all the attention that he has been getting. He just wants to come in and find himself a place in the program. There’s never been an athlete as heavily recruited — because of his track and football ability — as Michael, who has decided to stay in town.” … Bates later told Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times when he was with the Seattle Seahawks that he wondered if he attended Nebraska he would have become a running back instead of a track athlete. He also mentioned that Arizona’s coaches did not keep a promise of changing their offense to be more pass-oriented after switching him to receiver. “They talked about changing the offense for me,” Bates told Newnham. “Instead, they wanted me to change to wide receiver in an offense that only threw five or six passes a game.” …

Postscripts: Bates was with the Arizona football team playing mostly as a receiver and kickoff returner for three seasons through 1991 before concentrating on track. … In 1990, he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Washington State. He averaged 23.7 yards on 45 kickoff returns during his Wildcat career career. … He won the 100- and 200-meter dashes in the 1989 and 1990 Pac-10 championships, achieving Outstanding Male Performer both years. His best time in the 100 meters at Arizona was 10.17 seconds. … He also anchored Arizona’s 400-meter relay team to a second-place finish in the NCAA Championships. … He did not enroll at Arizona in the 1991-92 school year so he could concentrate on training for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He qualified for the Olympics and won a bronze medal in the 200 meters with a time of 20.38. … He also declared for the NFL Draft in 1992. He was drafted in the sixth round by the Seattle Seahawks, where he played from 1993-95. He spent 11 seasons in the NFL with seven teams, earning Pro Bowl honors five times as a kickoff returner. He was the NFL Kickoff Returner of the year in 1996 and was named to the All-Decade NFL team in 1990. He averaged an incredible 24.4 yards a return on 373 kickoff returns during his NFL career with five touchdown returns. … Bates, 53, presently lives in Northeast Tucson, enjoying his retirement. A private person, Bates has occasionally attended some of Arizona’s practices in recent years.


Story on Salpointe Class of 2024 defensive end Elijah Rushing committing to the Wildcats:

Story on Tucson High Class of 1972 defensive tackle Mike Dawson playing for the Wildcats:

Story about Sahuaro Class of 1990 offensive tackle Mike Ciasca playing for Arizona:


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator seven years ago and is presently a special education teacher at his alma mater Sunnyside High School.

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