5/25/2018 2:17:00 PM COLLEGE SIGNING: Bates signs to play college football at Wittenberg
Wellston senior Connor Bates signed his letter of intent to play college football at Wittenberg University with a ceremony held at the Wellston High School cafetorim on Wednesday, March 21. Shown in the front row (L-R) are Cameron Bates (sister), Jeff Bates (father), Connor Bates, and Jona Bates (mother). In the back are Wellston head football coach Jay Lucas, assistant football coach Chris Graham, assistant football coach Nathan Weege McKnight, former Wellston head football coach Greg Phillips and former Wellston assistant coach Dave Humphreys. (Photo By Todd Compston)
Several colleges showed interest in Wellston senior Connor Bates in both baseball and football.
However, after more than one on-campus visit to Wittenberg University and learning about the success of their football program, Bates knew it would be a perfect fit for him.
"They win football games, which is a big part of why I chose Wittenberg," said Bates, who signed to play college football for the Tigers and head coach Joe Fincham.
The Tigers compete at the NCAA Division III level and the program is affiliated with the North Coast Athletic Conference.
Wittenberg has the second-most wins in NCAA Division III football history and has won five national championships.
In 2011, the Tigers became the first non-Division I NCAA program to compile 700 all-time wins, and just the 19th NCAA program at any level to reach the mark.
Bates will be joined by high school teammate, running back Travis Jayjohn, who also signed with Wittenberg.
"I committed to the school a little sooner than he did," said Bates. "I think it is going to be good playing on the same team with Travis and having four more good years together."
Bates will play linebacker at Wittenberg, but he also excelled as an offensive lineman for the Rockets.
Wellston head football coach Jay Lucas said, "Connor was definitely a leader during his senior season. He had a great attitude and work ethic and the other players on the team looked up to him. He set the bar high.
"Connor has worked really hard during this offseason. He has gotten a lot stronger and I look for good things from him during the next four years."
Bates should obviously translate well as a linebacker with his physicality and playmaking ability at the position.
He said the biggest improvement he will have to make from high school to college is losing weight, which will help improve his speed and quickness and will help him to be able to defend pass routes.
But, as far as strength and toughness, he is right where he needs to be.
"I think our powerlifting team over the winter helped me get stronger," said Bates. "I have no doubt, my strength will increase, and my speed will get a lot better."
With Coach Fincham being his recruiting coach, it gave Bates a good feeling about signing to play football at Wittenberg.
"The head coach being your recruiting coach is really nice and it shows he is really involved and wanting you to play," said Bates.
Coach Fincham, who took over the program at Wittenberg in 1996, has compiled a record of 154-35, and his teams have won eight NCAC championships and appeared in eight NCAA Division III football championships.
During his senior season, Bates helped Wellston to a 5-5 overall record, including a 3-3 mark in the TVC Ohio Division.
He was named to the 2017 TVC-Ohio Division football team and was a special mention selection on the 2017 Associated Press Southeast All-District team in Division V.
Bates, who had the option to play college baseball or football, is happy he chose college football. However, he is strongly considering the possibility of playing baseball at Wittenberg as well.
During his senior season, Bates led the Rockets' baseball team with the most hits and runs batted in. He was named to the 2018 TVC-Ohio Division team and was a first-team selection on the 2018 Southeast All-District baseball team.
The son of Jeff and Jona Bates, Conner plans to major in education.
Information about the Wittenberg football program was obtained from wikepedia.org