Bloomington – To say Andre Kates caught IU assistant coach Joe Palcic by surprise would be a gross understatement.
Late last week, the Erie Community College cornerback was doing his best to let the IU staff know he wanted to commit to Indiana. After striking out on his first attempt to get Palcic on the phone, Kates phoned the IU football complex to try to speak with head coach Bill Lynch. When he learned Lynch was out of town, Kates made one more try at getting a hold of Palcic.
IU’s co-defensive coordinator answered, and Kates told him he wanted to come to Indiana.
“He thought I was talking about coming down for a visit,” Kates said. “I said, ‘coach, I’m coming to IU.’ He said, ‘when? This weekend?’ I said ‘no coach, I’m committing. That’s where I want to be.’”
Forgive Palcic for being caught off guard by the 6’0”, 193-pound Washington D.C. product’s decision to become the first member of IU’s 2010 recruiting class. After all, Kates hasn’t even visited Bloomington yet (he plans to do so May 29-31) and even he admits he wasn’t displaying a great deal of interest in the Hoosier program during the process.
But after talking with IU safety Jerimy Finch – who spent a year at Florida and is friends with Kates’ best friend from high school, Florida cornerback Joe Haden – Kates was convinced Indiana was the perfect fit. In pledging to the Hoosiers, Kates walked away from interest from a slew of big-name programs, most notably Florida (where he committed out of high school), Oklahoma, UCLA and Hawaii, among others.
“It was tough to say no to some of those other schools, I’m not going to lie,” Kates said. “People still tell me now that I’m crazy for picking Indiana. But that’s alright, I’m happy with my choice.”
While Indiana doesn’t have the tradition that many of those others programs do, what it does have is a great opportunity for Kates to step in and make a huge impact. Cornerback continues to be a position of need for the Hoosiers in the 2010 class, and Kates plans to fill that void immediately.
“When I come in there, I’m going to bring a whole new attitude about the game,” Kates said. “I want it to be fun, but I want to win, too. I hate to lose. I want to bring intensity, hitting people in practice, intercepting balls and taking it to the house. That’s what I’m going to do, and I plan on starting.”
He did that well enough last fall at Erie Community College to attract the attention of a slew of college programs. That’s no small accomplishment for a player who was playing a new position (he played wide receiver and quarterback at Friendly H.S. in Ft. Washington, Md.) and was returning to the game after a 1 ½ year absence.
After committing to Florida out of high school, grades forced Kates to look to the junior college ranks. He intended to enroll at a California JC for two years and then return to Florida, but financial problems at home led him to return to the D.C. area so that he could help his mom and sister.
“I thought I was done (with football),” Kates said. “When I didn’t leave to go to California and play junior college to stay home and help my mom, I thought I was done. But my friend Joe Haden down at Florida, he was telling me if I’d get back into it I could make it to the NFL and I could help my mom like that.”
That is what Kates is now focused on accomplishing. While he admits he misses the chance to play quarterback and wide receiver like he did in high school, he knows he has the tools to excel and potentially reach the next level as a defensive back.
“Corner is a perfect fit for me,” Kates said. “I have the size for it, the speed for it, and now I have the technique for it.”
Now, he also has a college to showcase his skills. He fully expects programs to try to convince him in the coming months that he should re-consider his IU pledge (Baylor and Memphis have already done so), but he said he’s found the place where he fits in the best.
“I’m 100 percent committed and I’m not going to change my mind,” Kates said.
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