So he said the magic words that ended his recruiting process, informing Penn State coach James Franklin before leaving that he was going to be a Nittany Lion.
"I love it here," Bates said. "This is the place I want to continue my education and football career."
His 6-foot-5, 282-pound frame first drew him an offer from Penn State's former staff, and he quickly learned it stood to the new one. The tackle had visited University Park plenty of times in the last year, and used the Junior Day to make sure he was comfortable with the new staff.
"It was more the realization that I've been thinking about committing for a while," Bates said. "Penn State has been my No. 1 for a good while, and I just love it.
"I like the new staff a lot. They are unreal. [Offensive line coach Herb] Hand gave me a great feeling. He's a great guy, and I can't wait to be coached by him. I've heard nothing but great things about what he and Coach Franklin did at Vanderbilt."
Despite playing mostly tackle for the Vikings in a PIAA AAA state title run, Hand told Bates he will begin his career at guard at Penn State. He also informed him he won't be a one-trick pony.
"Coach Hand told me they start you out at one position, and I'll learn more," Bates said. "He said at one point I can play across the board, and by the time my Penn State career is over, I'll know three positions: guard, tackle and center.
"I've played guard before, and it's not really that different. I can help a team wherever they need me, and I feel like I'll be able to help whether they slap me at center, tackle or guard. I'll be happy to jump in anywhere."
When the words finally left his lips signaling the end of his recruitment, Bates said his shoulders felt the weight of recruiting lifted off of them. He embraced his parents, and Franklin jumped "three feet in the air" into his arms.
Bates said he knew coming into the visit there was no other place in the country he wanted to play college football, and further, no school that approaches him going forward will change his mind. He pointed to the Lions' game-day atmosphere, fan base, alumni network and the coaching staff as reasons why.
"I love the people up there, and throughout the whole visit [Saturday], I was thinking about this was where I want to be," Bates said. "This is where I want to play my football, and I told my parents I found the place I'm going to play college football."
Bates holds offers from a who's-who of power programs, including Michigan, Ohio State and South Carolina.