Meet the soft-spoken and shy Gates, a second year wide receiver who last year played 15 games in Miami. Gates is one of the unheralded names in a Jets locker room filled with stars and superstars but like so many of the lesser known players on this team, his story is intriguing. Prior to college, he played just one year of high school football and saw no future in it.
The story goes that Abilene Christian football head coach Chris Thomsen came to visit Bernard Scott, the Bengals running back, at home one evening and Gates was there along with his brother. Thomsen offered Scott the chance to play college football and Scott encouraged his cousin to go to college with him.
“He was like ‘Clyde’ I want you to come with me and I was like ‘Cool, I’ll just try out for the basketball team at Abilene Christian,” Gates told The Jets Blog. “I tried out and made the basketball team in the spring of 2007.”
But hoops wasn’t in his future.
That summer, Gates worked out with Scott and members of the football team and Thomsen, who met Gates on his recruiting visit with Scott, got a good look at his athleticism. Gates had only played football during his sophomore year of high school and “I didn’t like it.” But he gave college football a shot and planned to play basketball that winter after the football season was over.
“He saw something in me that summer and I had to give it a shot; he was so encouraging about it. After the first season of football, my coach said I’m not to play basketball - that’s what I came here for but he saw a future for me. He was an honest guy and I appreciate that,” Gates said.
“Basketball is a thing that I like to do. I love it but football is my life now.”
Attention would follow and eventually Gates would be drafted, taken in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. His future is coming along and he admits that while he likely could have played basketball overseas, that “I just love football so much right now.”
His athleticism is unquestioned, with head coach Rex Ryan this week calling Gates the fastest player on the Jets.
“The thing I learned is that you can play any sport, this is my personal opinion, and can transition to play football. But you can’t be a football player and transition to any other sport. I feel like I’m an athlete and a football player now,” Gates said. “But when I first started at Abilene Christian, I was an athlete trying to play football. Before, I was just relying on being an athlete.”
And he won’t agree with Ryan and say that he’s the fastest player on the Jets but Gates did call DeSean Jackson the fastest player he’s seen in the NFL. Gates never ran track but he thinks it could be a great race between Jackson and himself.
“The question is if he can hang with me, not if I can hang with him,” Gates said with a laugh.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports. He can be followed for Jets news @KristianRDyer.