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Best in 25 Years Series: Bates is Northwestern's top wide receiver

D’Wayne Bates
D’Wayne Bates (AP)

It's been 25 years since Northwestern's magical run to the Rose Bowl in 1995 revitalized the program. WildcatReport is celebrating that Silver Anniversary by finding out who's been the best player during that span at each position.

BEST IN 25 YEARS SERIES: QB Dan Persa l RB Justin Jackson


D'Wayne Bates left a lot of defensive backs in the dust during his career at Northwestern. He did the same to the other Wildcat wideouts in this contest.

Bates ran away with the vote for the best Northwestern wide receiver over the last 25 years. He received 85.7% of the ballots to win in a landslide over two other all-time NU greats.

Austin Carr, the former walkon who became a star, came in a distant second with just 8.8% of the votes, while slot man extraordinaire Jeremy Ebert finished third with 4.4%. There was just one vote for a write-in candidate.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who saw Bates play for Northwestern from 1995-98. He had it all: the speed, the size, the hands, the jumping ability. That's why his name is all over Northwestern's all-time record book.

Bates owns the big three career marks for catches (210), yards (3,370), touchdowns (26) at Northwestern. His yardage mark is almost 900 yards -- about a full season's worth -- more than second-second-place Richard Buchanan.

And he set those records despite playing just three years. Bates broke his fibula in the 1997 opener against Oklahoma and didn't play again that season.

D'Wayne Bates Key Statistics
Catches Yards TDs YPC

Career

210*

3,370*

26*

16.0

Best Year (1998)

83

1,245

9

15.0

* Most all-time at Northwestern

BALLOT: Who was the best Northwestern wide receiver over the last 25 years?

The other career records Bates still owns are receptions per game (5.7), yards per game (91.1), games with three-plus catches (34), games with five-plus catches (24), seasons with 500-plus yards (3, tie), touchdowns per game (.7), seasons with three-plus touchdowns (3, tie) and seasons with five-plus touchdowns (3, tie).

Northwestern head coach Gary Barnett beat out SEC and ACC schools to land Bates as an option quarterback out of Aiken (S.C.) Silver Bluff in 1994. A standout two-sport athlete, Bates was the football player of the year in South Carolina as a senior and was also drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as an outfielder in the 1994 Major League Baseball draft.

Bates was redshirted as a freshman and then made the move from quarterback to wide receiver during practice the next spring. It proved to be one of the best position switches in NU history.

Bates was a breakout star as a redshirt freshman on the 1995 Wildcat team that won the Big Ten championship and played in the Rose Bowl. The next year, Bates set Northwestern's single-season marks for receiving yardage and touchdowns as the Wildcats captured a second straight conference title. He broke the yardage mark again in his next full season, in 1998.

Bates was named first-team All-Big Ten twice, in 1996 and 1998. The only other Wildcat wideouts in history to do that are Buchanan (1989-90) and Barry Pearson (1970-71).

Carr and Ebert had great careers as Wildcats, but there is no debating that No. 5 is No. 1 in Evanston.


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