The wait was finally over.
Former Snider and Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates III received the call he'd been waiting two days for: “Welcome to Cincinnati.”
Bates was drafted by the Bengals as the 54th overall pick in Friday's second round of the NFL Draft and received the call at his party at Crazy Pinz Entertainment Center.
“I've dreamed about it a couple times, and it was nothing like my dream, obviously,” he said. “Just sitting there, waiting, you can't really explain it. You get very nervous, you wonder if you're going to keep falling or not. I felt pretty good about it.”
Bates tried to hold his emotions together as he was congratulated by his family and friends but lost control when he hugged his mother, Theresa Ladd.
“Obviously, I was trying to hold everything in, but once I embraced my mom, it really just brought so many emotions,” Bates said. “I can't really explain it. She's taken care of me, she's given me advice, she's been my coach, my mom, my best friend, my girlfriend, she's been all that in one. That special moment, she deserved all the glory as I do.”
For Ladd, the anxiety was just as intense for her son.
“It's very difficult,” she said. “The pressure is on pick after pick after pick. These last two days, you're anxious, you're just waiting, waiting, waiting. When it was made, it was just so much relief.
“The emotions were overwhelming. Me and Jessie are like best friends. We've done all the traveling for all these years. It was a great feeling. This is his dream. That's what we wanted.”
The Bengals were the first team Bates met with at the NFL combine and he had lunch with defensive backs coach Daronte Jones the day before the Wake Forest pro day.
Former Bishop Luers and Notre Dame standout Jaylon Smith has been a mentor for Bates and having Smith available for guidance has proven to be beneficial, Bates said.
“If you're smart, you're going to ask questions,” Bates said, “you be a sponge and try to soak everything in and once your time comes, you try and do the things they didn't do and do everything they did right.
“(Smith has) always been a role model to me, I've grown up with Jaylon, as well. For me to have his number and him having success in the NFL right now, who else would I ask to be with right now?”
Smith was hoping for Bates to be drafted by the Cowboys but is happy for his friend to join fellow Fort Wayne native Tyler Eifert, a tight end for the Bengals.
“Obviously (Bates being picked by Dallas was) what I was hoping,” Smith said. “Playing with my brother and the Cowboys, it would have been a great addition having another Fort Wayne guy in Jessie, considering I was thinking we were going to draft a DB, I'm proud of him. I'm familiar with Ohio, he's going to do some great things.”
Bates accumulated 119 tackles and six interceptions in two seasons at Wake Forest and helped the Demon Deacons win back-to-back bowl games in the Belk Bowl and Military Bowl.
Bates hasn't set any goals for himself on the Bengals squad just yet, waiting to know what his role will be.
“I think it's just like me going to college,” he said. “You make that jump and go in there and start from square one.
“You have to build yourself back up, get around the guys who experienced the same thing as you and had success so that's what I'm going to do.
“I want to go in there, work hard, and push my teammates and myself and represent Fort Wayne very well.”