Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, April 5, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Nick Gates always imagined playing college baseball.
A pitcher and first baseman at Bishop Gorman High, Gates didn’t join the football team until his freshman year when coaches recruited him out of a physical education class.
Now, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive tackle is one of the nation’s best linemen for the class of 2014. This week, he received a scholarship offer from defending national champion Alabama, giving him nine scholarship offers and more validation that his college future is undoubtedly on the gridiron. On Thursday, he also added a scholarship from Cal.
Gates originally came to Gorman to enhance his potential at the next level in the Gaels’ nationally respected baseball program. He wound up thriving more with the football team, which is also nationally recognized, winning the past four state championships and being ranked in the top 10 nationally the past two seasons.
Until Alabama extended a scholarship offer, most of Gates’ interest was from nonperennial power schools such as Colorado State, San Diego State, Duke, New Mexico State, Washington State and UNLV.
But Gates, who wasn’t promoted to the Gaels' varsity team until midway through his sophomore season, continues to impress with his athleticism and physical tools. Despite being nearly 300 pounds, he has a slender build, quick feet and tremendous strength.
Last year, he dominated the line of scrimmage, often finishing blocks by putting the opposition on their back, helping the Gaels rush for 3,800 yards and score 55 points per game.
After losing three starters, including Ronnie Stanley to Notre Dame, the Gorman offensive line last fall was supposed to be a weakness. Gates made sure it wasn’t, bursting onto the scene to earn all-Region honors and catching the eye of one of college football's most storied teams.
“Gates was one of those guys who came into high school as a baseball player who played football,” Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. “But as he evolved and you really saw his talents unfold, it really became clear he has a great future in football.”
Gates still plays on the Gorman baseball team, batting .367 with 12 RBIs in the first month of the season. But after the season ends in late May, he’ll start looking into the next part of his life, taking unofficial recruiting trips with his family and trying to figure where he’ll play college football.
Alabama surely will be one of the first stops.
“Alabama definitely stands out. Just amazing this is happening to me,” he said.
Starks offered by Alabama, too
Nate Starks can pretty much play college football anywhere he wants.
Starks, a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 26 overall prospect by rivals.com, added a scholarship offer from Alabama to the already impressive list of suitors. He also has offers from Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, USC and others.
With each scholarship offer, no matter how big or small the program, Starks typically takes to his Twitter page to write how thankful he is. That’s especially true with Alabama.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said of the Alabama offer. “This whole opportunity has been fun for me. Knowing this many schools want me to play for their team gives me motivation to keep working to take my talents to the next level.”
Bishop Gorman has sent players to Notre Dame, USC, Miami and Arizona in recent seasons, with recruiters from the top conferences regularly scouting the Gaels’ players. This was the first time Alabama has offered a Gorman player.
“It is a big deal just for the simple fact they are the defending national champions,” Sanchez said. “It’s nice when you see a school like that take interest in your kids. It shows there is quality football in Las Vegas. (Alabama’s) Coach (Nick) Saban is about as good as it gets. For him to think highly of our guys, it excites us.”