April 23, 2018

Wake Forest defensive star Jessie Bates declares for NFL draft

Bates intercepted six passes in his two seasons with the Deacons. He also returned a punt for a touchdown in Wake's Belk Bowl win against Texas A&M

Jessie Bates III scores a touchdown on a punt return against Texas A&M during the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

  As a redshirt sophomore, Jessie Bates III figured to be the centerpiece of Wake Forest’s defense for at least another season.

  Friday, though, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound safety ended his career with the Deacons two years early by declaring his intention to enter the NFL draft. Bates made the announcement on his Twitter page, expressing his thanks to Wake Forest’s coaches and fans for helping him to “grow as a man, an athletes (and) a competitior.

  “I’ve envisioned playing the National Football League my entire life and the opportunity has finally presented itself,” he wrote.

  Bates ranked fourth on the Deacons this season with 79 tackles, including six for losses, with one interception, five pass breakups and a forced fumble. He was also an elite punt returner, as illustrated by his 59-yard return for a touchdown against Texas A&M in last month’s Belk Bowl victory.

  Bates burst into prominence as a freshman last season when he picked off five passes, including two for touchdowns on his way to earning Freshman All-America honors. He was the runner up to Clemson’s Dexter Lawerence in the voting for ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

  His place in the lineup will likely be filled by redshirt freshman Luke Masterson, who started two games this season while Bates was sidelined with a knee injury.