MINNEAPOLIS - Rashod Bateman is confident he has the talent and the drive to be an elite wide receiver in the National Football League. He just has to prove that to the league’s general managers and scouts.
He got that chance Thursday morning, as the University of Minnesota hosted its Pro Day for Bateman, and defensive back Benjamin St.-Juste. More than 50 personnel from 31 NFL teams were at the Gophers Pro Day, held at the football complex at Athletes’ Village.
His highlight for the day? Running a 4.39 40-yard dash, with all eyes on him. There had been some questions about his speed going into the Pro Day, but those have now been put to rest.
"I didn’t have a goal, I just was out there competing and running fast. I got a chance to prove that I ran fast today. Proud of myself, I worked extremely hard. Yeah, I ran fast," Bateman said.
Before doing any drills, Bateman took measurements. He’s 6 feet, 190 pounds with 9.5 inch hands with a 76.5 inch wing span. He also had a 10 foot, 3 inch broad jump and a 36-inch vertical.
With all eyes watching, Bateman did his thing.
"It’s not tough. I’ve played football all my life, this was just another evaluation. Every single game I’ve played, every single practice I’ve played, you’re getting evaluated. There’s no difference here, you’re just taking the next step at becoming a professional. I got a chance to compete and that’s what I love to do," Bateman said.
Two years ago, Bateman was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten as the Gophers went 11-2 and beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl. He played about half of the 2020 season, opting out after the Gophers had to cancel two games due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
He’ll leave Minnesota as one of the greatest receivers in program history, and says he’ll always call it home. The Tifton, Ga., native committed to the Gophers, his first Power 5 offer. Other schools came calling, even Georgia’s Kirby Smart, and tried to sway him before National Signing Day. Bateman got a "RTB" tattoo, and never wavered in his commitment to the Gophers.
"Choosing Minnesota was not a hard decision for me and holding my commitment here was not a hard decision for me. All the other teams came in and offered just because Minnesota did, and I didn’t fall for the trick that they wanted to pull. Minnesota is a place that I’ll always come back home to. It’s a place that I’ll love forever," Bateman said. "I’m just grateful to be here, I’m a Minnesota boy."
Bateman is a likely first round pick later this month, and will be the highest Gophers’ receiver drafted since Eric Decker. Last year, Tyler Johnson was a sixth round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and won a Super Bowl as a rookie with teammate Antoine Winfield Jr.
All three have kept in contact, and Bateman has leaned on them as he gets ready for the biggest moment of his life. He’s also trained with and looked to O’Dell Beckham Jr. and D.K. Metcalf.
On April 29, Bateman will get his life-changing moment. Between now and then, he’ll head back to Arizona and train. Draft night, he’ll be in Georgia with those closest to him, waiting for the phone to ring. He likely won’t have to wait very long.
He says it’s something he’s been waiting for since he was a toddler.
"Day by day, every day I wake up going through this process it’s just like ‘Wow, it’s getting closer.’ It feels real, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s just full of excitement," Bateman said. "I’ll be back home with my family in Tifton to celebrate that, just to make sure that I can have the people that I care about with me during this important time. I’m just excited to be able to accomplish my dream, something I’ve been working for since I was 2 years old. I’m just happy to be in this position and blessed to be in this position."