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June 21, 2013
Like father, like son? It comes with some pressure
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Most kids look up to and want to be like their father. But most dads aren't former NFL Pro Bowl players.
Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High prospect Dillon Bates and Hoover (Ala.) High player Marlon Humphrey, two Rivals100 athletes, both got a small taste of the NFL experience at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour at Soldier Field in Chicago. While it may be early for people to expect to see them playing there again on Sundays, both said the outside pressure to follow in their fathers' footsteps to Tennessee and Alabama, respectively, is mounting.
But both say a college decision will come on their terms.
Bates is the No. 59 player in the national rankings and will be playing linebacker in college. His father, Bill, was a four-year safety for the Volunteers and a 15-year NFL veteran of the Dallas Cowboys.
Humphrey is a five-star athlete and ranked No. 11 in the Rivals100. He is a cornerback, unlike his father Bobby, who was a running back for the Crimson Tide and in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins.
Marlon said being on the other side of the ball has really kept the comparisons to a minimum.
"I think that makes a huge difference," he said. "I think if I was a running back, everybody would have all kinds of things to say about me and him."
With that distance comes a little bit of breathing room.
"I feel like a lot of other people think that there is a lot of pressure on me," Humphrey said. "My dad doesn't put any pressure on me and my coaches don't either, so I don't really feel it at all."
Despite a position switch and a size disparity -- Dillon Bates is listed at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds and projects to push close to 245 pounds, while his father was 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds during his playing days -- Bates said some people still expect their styles to be similar.
"Everyone has told me that he was an animal on the field and the most physical player they've ever seen," Dillon Bates said. "I try to take his game into my game and make it that much better."
In recent seasons, Barry Sanders, Nick Montana, Ray Lewis III and Deion Sanders Jr., among others, have had to separate their games from those of their famous fathers.
[ Y! Sports Radio: Dillon Bates at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge ]
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that while being in different positions might make it easier, fans still have elevated expectations.
"Those guys will come in with more pressure to succeed because their fathers were so successful, even if they are not at the same position," Farrell said. "They will be able to escape direct comparisons, but they can't get all the way out of the shadows that were left."
Farrell said that while neither Bates nor Humphrey is committed, he expects both to be legacy recruits.
Bates has set a tentative date of July 3 for his announcement and will be choosing from among Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.
Humphrey has said since the beginning of his recruitment that Alabama was his leader, but he wants to visit South Carolina and Florida State, and he may take all five official visits this fall. He is widely considered by many to be a silent commitment to Alabama, although he has disputed that rumor.
"I think there is a little bit of an advantage because of their fathers playing at those schools, but I do not think either is making a decision based solely on that factor," Farrell said. "I am sure those kids grew up around the program and probably visualized themselves playing for Alabama and Tennessee and now they have the chance. It may have been a seed planted by their dad, but if they thought that they could do better elsewhere, they would go there."
Bill Bates had said that if it were not for the change at the top, he would not have his son considering his alma mater.
Farrell said that landing Bates is something that has to happen for the Tennessee program.
"For coaches, there is always more pressure to land legacy players," Farrell said. "If you lose out on an elite prospect that is the son of a former prominent player at your school, it just looks like you aren't doing a good job recruiting.
[ Y! Sports Radio: Marlon Humphrey at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge ]
"I think that Nick Saban would get a pass if Humphrey went elsewhere because of what he has done in recruiting. And even though Jones has started out strong, losing Bates just would not look good."
Bates has maintained that Tennessee is getting a fair look, but the Volunteers don't hold a special advantage.
"Growing up and hearing all about Tennessee and what (my dad) did at Tennessee, it is definitely intriguing to follow in his footsteps," Dillon Bates said. "But (my parents) made it clear right from the start that there was no pressure whatsoever and it was my decision where I want to be and what makes me feel most comfortable."
Bates said that his friends want him to stay close and go to Florida, but he is strongly considering Alabama because of its track record of sending players to the pros.
Humphrey has been less open about his recruitment. He is close to qualifying for the National Junior Olympics Team in the hurdles and has not gone on as many recruiting trips as Bates.
"Alabama is definitely leading right now," he said. "(It is) still the school showing me the most love and I've talked to just about everybody on the staff."
Of course, if they end up going to their fathers' schools, it will only make the shadows of those who went before them more difficult to escape.
"Both are tremendous players, and going to the SEC, and being at the school of their dads means that the same questions will continue to be asked of them," he said. "It is good that they feel like it isn't that bad right now, but the more high profile they get, the more all of this attention and comparisons to their dads will grow."