Aug. 15, 2004
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State defensive tackle Michael Gates is the player that you want to lead your team off the bus, to be the first one into the hotel, and to be the first one out of the lockerroom and onto the field. The junior looks like an imposing football player - tall, strong and cut at 6-4, 243 pounds. However, when he first arrived on the USU campus back in 2002, he did not quite play up to his looks. He saw limited time recording three tackles on the year. Last season things started to change as the Arlington, Texas native was thrust into the role of starter for the first three games due to an injury to John Chick. Gates responded well, recording 13 of his 22 tackles on the year in those three road games at Utah, Nebraska and Arizona State. He gained experience and confidence. In spring drills he was a constant in the offensive backfield, recording five sacks in three scrimmages. "Michael has come a long ways, probably the farthest of any kid I have had the opportunity to coach in the last 10 years here - from opening up to having confidence in himself," said USU defensive line coach Tom McMahon. "I think the biggest thing Michael has to do this year, is be Michael. The only guy that is ever going to stop Michael is Michael. I think he has finally realized that. He realized that last spring. The guy that slows him down is himself. He set limits to himself and it became a confidence thing and his confidence is there now. The sky is the limit for him. He likes the pressure now - before it wasn't his gig. He has got to perform and he knows that and he is up to the challenge. We expect big things from him." The junior echoes his coaches' comments about his confidence and that last year's experience has helped him tremendously. "Knowing that I am starting is giving me a lot more confidence and it helps me be more of a leader and to be more aggressive on the field," Gates said. "Last year I learned the intensity of the game. I didn't play much the year before, but I learned that playing 60-70 snaps a game, the intensity is high and you can't get tired in the game." Gates believes the summer workouts he and his teammates endured under new strength coach Mark Eyeyama and his staff will also help the team this year. "Coach Eyeyama came in and really helped us a lot," Gates said. "Every workout felt like you played in a game, so he really got us in shape for football." The Aggie defense, which showed great improvement last year, expects to continue that betterment this season. It will be helped by a more confident Michael Gates.
Defensive Michael Gates is prepared for a good season.