Kicker Jake Bates Is Heading to the Lions From the UFL

He had an outstanding UFL season

Jake Bates
Jake Bates of the Michigan Panthers kicks a 44-yard field goal from the hold of Brock Miller against the Birmingham Stallions.
Stew Milne/UFL/Getty Images

In a move familiar to observers of the game of football, a highly-touted player known for his exceptional skill at kicking the ball is moving from a lower-division league to the highest echelon of the sport. What’s a bit different about this is the kind of football we’re talking about. This isn’t a case of a highly touted Championship League player signing with Manchester United; instead, the football here is of the American variety — and kicker Jake Bates is taking a big step forward.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news on Saurday that Bates was leaving the UFL for the NFL’s Detroit Lions on a two-year contract. “Bates visited the Lions, Packers and Commanders and opted to stay in Michigan, where he kicked in the UFL,” Schefter reported. “His longest field this season was from 64 yards.” Has Bates made that kick in the NFL, it would have been one of the longest ever recorded.

A followup report from ESPN provided more context on the signing — including the fact that Bates had the second-highest number of field goals kicked in the league. Previously, Bates has been playing in the Michigan Panthers of the UFL. The Panthers’ season ended last week, when they lost a playoff semifinal 31-18 to the Birmingham Stallions.

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During his college days, Bates played football for Texas State and Arkansas — and played soccer with Central Arkansas before that. Last year, Bates was signed briefly by the Houston Texans, but was cut from the squad shortly thereafter. He’ll join the growing ranks of elite players who have made the leap from soccer to football — and played the latter at the highest possible level.

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