You remember Damien Bates. He's the Hoboken High School running back from a few years ago who rushed for almost 4,000 yards in two seasons (2005 and 2006) and was a two-time Hudson Reporter Offensive Player of the Year.
In 2006, Bates rushed for an amazing 2,365 yards and scored 35 touchdowns, leading the entire state in scoring and earned First Team All-State in the process. The elder Bates rightly earned his place among the great running backs in Hoboken history, right there with names like Dwayne Peterson, Ravon Anderson, Keeon Walker, Tyrell Dortch and Ira Guilford, all of whom were First Team All-State running backs like Bates.
The elder Bates went on to Hutchison Junior College in Kansas, where he's currently playing tailback, awaiting the chance to move on to a big-time major college, more than likely the University of Kansas.
So needless to say, when younger brother Desmond got his chance to play running back for the Red Wings, he was following a legacy. There had to be tremendous pressure. How can anyone duplicate what Damien Bates did? The younger Bates even donned the No. 2 Red Wing jersey that his brother once wore.
"He's my big brother and my role model," Desmond Bates said. "I wore the jersey in honor of him. I really wanted to be just like him, but I knew I could never do everything that he did. He was a great player. I could never dare try to compare myself to him. I never wanted to think if I was doing things as great as he did. That was too much to think about."
"I know I wouldn't want to be in that predicament," Hoboken head coach Lou Taglieri said. "People always saying that his brother did this and his brother did that. It couldn't be easy for him. It had to make it very tough."
Desmond Bates was expected to be a part of a deep and talented backfield for the Red Wings this season, but he suffered a back injury early in the season and that slowed his progress. Bates was out of the lineup for the first two games of the season. It's not the way he wanted to start his senior year, especially when he's Damien Bates' brother.
"I wanted to be as good of a player as I can be," Desmond Bates said. "I knew it was hard to try to be as good as Damien was. I just had to be me. It was hard missing the first two games and it was hard to come back, but I had to come back, because I'm a senior and I knew my team needed me. I wasn't getting the chance to perform and I couldn't perform hurt."
While Bates was nursing the back injury, fellow senior Colin Edwards stepped up and became the go-to guy. In fact, Edwards rushed for 215 yards and had three touchdowns in a big win over Lincoln last month.
But then Edwards had the injury bug bite him one more time, forcing him to the sidelines and putting Bates back into the spotlight. It was the little brother's turn to shine.
"Earlier in the year, I knew we were going to try to share the ball," Bates said. "But after [Edwards] got hurt, I knew that I had to get the ball more. I had to lead the team. I was going to do whatever I could to help the team. I had to work harder in practice and perform in games. This was my chance."
"We were definitely more balanced with Colin, but when Colin went down again, Desmond had to come through," Taglieri said. "It's almost like we became a one-dimensional backfield again, like when we had Damien."
Before the Red Wings faced Hudson Catholic last Friday in a crucial game for both teams, Taglieri pulled Bates aside.
"I told him that big players make big plays in big games," Taglieri said. "I told him that we were counting on him. He looked me in the eyes and said, 'I'm going to do it, Coach.' I knew he was ready."
But no one could have ever predicted the game Bates would give his coach. Bates rushed for 146 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns, leading Hoboken to a huge 24-7 victory over Hudson Catholic, clinching a berth in the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs in the process.
For his efforts, Bates has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Incredibly, it marks the second straight week that a younger brother earned Athlete of the Week honors following in the footsteps of an older brother.
Last week, Mike Nunez of Secaucus received the honor, two years after his older brother, Ricky, earned the nod. It's only the third time a pair of brothers has earned the distinction, joining the Lang brothers, Brian and Mike, of St. Peter's Prep.
Taglieri makes no bones about the younger Bates' contribution.
"No question, he's our main runner now," Taglieri said. "I was counting on him, but I never thought he could get four touchdowns, especially against a very good team like Hudson Catholic. But Desmond is a hard worker and a good student of the game. He's watched the players and the game over the years and he's developed. I know he was able to watch his brother and learn a lot."
"I definitely learned a lot since my freshman year, watching and studying," Bates said. "I also learned a lot from my brother. We would come home after practice and go over plays. He would teach me how to run and tell me what I should do on different plays. He would show me how the plays should be run. I learned a lot from him. I owe a lot to him."
Added Bates, "Everyone knows about my brother and I'm proud of him and what he did. But I wanted to do something good too."
Taglieri said that he's happy that Bates has developed into a fine running back in his own right.
"I remember having him in class when he was in grammar school and I used to tease Desmond, telling him that he could never be like Damien," Taglieri said. "I think he took that as a challenge. He knows how good he is and what's expected of him. Sure, he's not his brother, but he's getting the ball now and there is a lot on his shoulders. He's doing a fine job just being Desmond. He's a product of the program and definitely a program player."
Like a true running back, Desmond Bates wanted to thank his offensive line for opening the holes that enabled him to get the yardage and the touchdowns. Incredibly, Bates now has collected more than 550 yards and scored nine touchdowns in the last three games, all victories.
Desmond Bates said that he talks to his older brother in Kansas every weekend.
"We talk about what he's doing and what I'm doing," Bates said.
It's safe to say that the elder Bates didn't score four touchdowns last weekend.
"No, I don't think so," Desmond Bates said. "I'm just trying to earn my own way, be my own person. I'd rather just be Desmond than be Damien's little brother. I want to make my own identity."
With games like he had last weekend, it's safe to say that Desmond Bates is well on his way. - Jim Hague