Star running back, Olympic medalist, Pro Bowl return man

2011-07-23T00:00:00Z 2011-07-25T15:27:54Z Star running back, Olympic medalist, Pro Bowl return man Arizona Daily Star
July 23, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. In August, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Michael Bates

Achievement

Of all the good memories Vern Friedli has had on the Amphitheater football field, one of the best had nothing to do with football.

The moment arrived on Aug. 6, 1992, when the longtime Amphi football coach marched out on the field by himself at 4 a.m., figuring he could get a better radio reception of Michael Bates' performance in the Summer Olympics 200 meters.

It was worth it. Bates, the dual track and football star who sped his way from Amphi to UA to the Olympics and then the NFL, wound up claiming the bronze medal with a time of 20.38 despite racing in the dreaded inside lane.

"It was probably the most breathtaking thing he did," Friedli said.

Amphi benefited from both sides of the talented Bates, who ran for more than 1,000 yards three times during his Amphi career, including a 1,557-yard stretch over eight games in 1988 as a senior following a five-game absence due to an ankle sprain.

He was even better in track, recording the second-fastest times in Arizona history in the 100 and 200 meters and the 110 high hurdles.

Bates finished sixth in the 1990 and 1991 NCAA 200 finals with Arizona, then became a star in the Barcelona Olympics.

"It's amazing," UA sprint coach Fred Harvey told the Star. "He had the talent but not the 'titles'. … Now, suddenly, here he is an Olympic medalist."

Friedli says he still wonders why UA didn't better deploy Bates' speed in football.

"He was one of the fastest humans in the world, and they used him as a blocking back," Friedli said. "Oh well."

The Seattle Seahawks took Bates in the sixth round of the 1992 NFL draft, but he didn't join the team until 1993 because of track. Once he did, Bates took advantage of his speed as a returner during an 11-year NFL career spent largely with Carolina. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times.

Hometown; current age

Tucson; 41

By the numbers

9,110

Bates' career NFL kick return yardage. He returned five kickoffs for touchdowns.

Bruce Pascoe

On StarNet: See the archive of Sports Centennial articles at: azstarnet.com/sportscentennial

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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