Rashod Bateman formed a plan the summer before last season.
The Gophers receiver had gone wakeboarding on Lake Minnetonka with a couple of teammates, and spent the July 4th holiday at Zack Annexstad's cabin near Alexandria, home to the Jim & Judy's gas station that Bateman reps with his favorite hat. He'd attended Twins games, explored downtown Minneapolis, frequented the Mall of America.
And he'd come to the conclusion this was home.
"Ever since I've been here, I haven't been homesick. I haven't gotten homesick once," the Tifton, Ga., native said last fall. "I fell in love with Minnesota. I've thought about it, I think I'm going to retire and live on Lake Minnetonka."
Those retirement plans look a little closer this season, almost certainly Bateman's last since he already declared for the 2021 NFL draft once. But he ultimately decided to return to the Gophers and play in the reinstated Big Ten season that begins Saturday.
The reigning Big Ten Receiver of the Year will likely go on to become a first-round draft pick, possibly in the top 10. He'll hope to have a long and illustrious NFL career that could take him all across the country. But in a decade or so, he'll find his way back here. Maybe with a nice house on a lake. Maybe with a post-playing venture opening the first Zaxby's one of his favorite restaurants franchise of the North.
This place will keep a hold on its adopted son because it's where he found himself, while lighting up the highlight reel with touchdown receptions.
"He came here a boy, I would say, and then he's leaving here a man," Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. "It's because of his experiences at the University of Minnesota and because of the Twin Cities area and the state of Minnesota that Rashod has been allowed to be Rashod in every way possible."
Who he was
It took Bateman coming to Minneapolis to realize he hadn't really ever felt comfortable in his hometown.
Bateman described Tifton as not having much to offer kids besides playing sports, especially compared to the Twin Cities. The Georgia Bateman of three or so years ago is also hard to compare to the current Minnesota version.
The old Bateman dressed very differently, a lot of collared shirts, boot-cut jeans and loafers. It was similar garb to what many of his white friends wore. Part of that was to fit in with the crowd. Another was to cover up his tattoos. Another was to make sure his friends' parents didn't look at him differently.
The 20-year-old recalled one high school relationship where the girl's parents didn't want her dating someone Black. He accepted it at the time but never would now.
"[When I came to college] that's when I kind of realized how wrong it was, and what I put myself through, and what they put me through," Bateman said. "And that kind of took a toll on me because our relationship was hidden for all throughout high school, however long we dated. I couldn't be seen in public with her. I couldn't take her on a date. I couldn't post her on any social media platforms. Just because her family didn't allow it."
The four-star recruit had chosen the Gophers ahead of his senior season and stuck with them despite late pushes from SEC programs, including the University of Georgia. Fleck's "Row the Boat" culture had captivated him so much so that he tattooed a large ode to it on his right arm before he even officially enrolled on campus. While his stunning talent led the Gophers to an 11-2 season and a 31-24 Outback Bowl victory over Auburn in 2019, the Twin Cities provided something for him he didn't even realize was missing.
He saw more interracial relationships here. He saw his teammates dressing and acting how they wanted. And through that, he found the courage to do the same.
"It's just about being able to show my love for who I love anywhere I want," Bateman said. "And I wasn't able to do that because of the color of my skin. And now I am able to do that, and it feels so good. But now my job is to help others who want the same thing for their life."
Who he is
Minnesota always had felt welcoming to Bateman. People lived up to their nice reputation, and he never encountered any overt racism.
But George Floyd's killing reminded Bateman that's not true for everyone.
Fleck said this diverse community has helped Bateman mature, given him real-life experience of the good and the bad. And Bateman has come to understand the power and platform he commands as an athlete, and how he can use that to help others.
"Rashod's a giver," Fleck said. "And he wants [to give] love, hope, joy to anybody he comes in contact with. That's who he is."
Bateman set Gophers sophomore records last year for receiving yards (1,219) and receiving touchdowns (11). Opposing defenses couldn't only focus on stopping him because quarterback Tanner Morgan had another NFL-level option at receiver in Tyler Johnson.
Now Johnson is catching passes from Tom Brady for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so Bateman gave the Gophers an enormous lift when he decided to return.
Bateman revealed he had a bout with COVID-19 this summer, possibly stemming from a trip to California with friends. That had played into his decision to opt out, but updated Big Ten health protocols, with mandatory daily testing, made him comfortable to return.
All of this made for an eventful offseason, and Bateman has been active on social media, sharing his own thoughts on racial injustice or promoting certain causes. He changed from No. 13 to No. 0 to symbolize zero tolerance for racism. At a recent team meeting dedicated to discussing racism, Bateman was the first to stand up in front of everyone and share two personal stories.
He also inked another prominent tattoo on his left thigh, representing the Black Lives Matter movement.
At another time in his life, he would hide that away. He wouldn't share pictures of his girlfriend or their two cats on Instagram. He wouldn't let on that his fashion sense went beyond L.L. Bean boots.
But not in Minnesota. Not at home.
"Just being up here," Bateman said, "I feel free."
Read the rest here:
- Dr Gregor Smith: Tattooed chief medical officer surprises Scots with stunning body art as he receives coronavirus vaccine jag - The Scotsman - May 4th, 2021
- Billie Eilish Tattoos: Guide to Ink Designs and Their Meanings - J-14 - May 4th, 2021
- Here are the nine men from Hudson Valley charged with participating in Jan. 6 Capitol riot - The Journal News / Lohud.com - April 19th, 2021
- Jennifer Aniston Shares Meaning of '11 11' Tattoo: Pics - Us Weekly - March 8th, 2021
- PICTURES: Care home residents at Innis Mhor in Tain make an impression with special tattoos - Northern Times - March 8th, 2021
- Father-Son Duo Facing Charges of Armed Pot Robbery - The Peoples Vanguard of Davis - March 8th, 2021
- Rohanpreet Singh gets a tattoo of wife Neha Kakkars name! - The Tribune India - February 19th, 2021
- Valentines Day 2021: Neha Kakkars Husband Rohanpreet Singh Gets Nehus Man Tattooed On His Arm; Lady Gushes Over Him And Calls It The Best Gift Ever-... - February 17th, 2021
- Rohanpreet Singh gets a tattoo for Neha Kakkar on Valentines Day; 'Nehu's man', it reads; check it out - The Tribune India - February 14th, 2021
- Norfolk tattooist turns to art in lockdown - Eastern Daily Press - February 14th, 2021
- CrimeStoppers says face masks are making it harder to identify wanted criminals - KHON2 - February 11th, 2021
- Sapna Choudhary gets husband Veer Sahu's name tattooed on her arm | Latest photos - India TV News - February 6th, 2021
- Khushi Kapoor is OBSESSED with tattoos; Take a look at these PHOTOS which prove the same - PINKVILLA - February 4th, 2021
- Best of Jackson 2021: Community and Culture - Jackson Free Press - February 4th, 2021
- All About Alev Aydin, Halsey's Boyfriend and Father of Her Child - ELLE.com - February 2nd, 2021
- Who is Leni Klum? 5 fascinating facts about Heidi Klum's 16-year-old daughter who walked her first runway - MEAWW - January 27th, 2021
- BTS Jungkooks tattoo to Jennies 25th birthday; Heres a weekly round-up of K-pops - Republic World - January 24th, 2021
- UK lotto winner shares photo of her bizarre bum tattoos on Instagram - NEWS.com.au - January 22nd, 2021
- 90 Day Fiance: Everything To Know About Yolanda's Ex Josh Seiter - Screen Rant - January 15th, 2021
- Tattoo artists share 6 of their favorite designs to ink, and 5 they don't really like - Insider - INSIDER - January 12th, 2021
- Chicago Activist Outs Local Insurgents Who Traveled To Capitol - WBEZ - January 12th, 2021
- POLICE LOOKING FOR SUSPECT IN TOOL THEFT FROM LOWE'S IN DECEMBER - wccsradio.com - January 9th, 2021
- Brad Pitt Shows Off His 7 Back Tattoos As He Goes Snorkeling In Turks And Caicos - SpotboyE - January 5th, 2021
- Raheem Sterling's tattoos explained: What do they mean and where are they on his body? - Goal (English) - January 5th, 2021
- Inspired by the sun's nourishment - Otago Daily Times - January 5th, 2021
- Raheem Sterling's tattoos explained: What do they mean and where are they on his body? - Goal.com - January 3rd, 2021
- David Fincher, the Unhappiest Auteur - The New York Times - January 3rd, 2021
- The Nashville explosion slammed these small businesses. They'll need help digging out - WLS - December 28th, 2020
- Ink Master Season 1: Where Are They Now? Ink Master Season 1 Winners Today - The Cinemaholic - December 25th, 2020
- Police trying to ID woman hit by van - Times-Mail - December 23rd, 2020
- Chhavi Mittal Flaunting Her Stomach Tattoo Dedicated To Hubby, Mohit Hussein Screams Of Eternal Love - BollywoodShaadis.com - December 21st, 2020
- Mom-To-Be Kareena Kapoor Khan Turns Author, Shares How The Subject Of Her Book Is Close To Her Heart - BollywoodShaadis.com - December 21st, 2020
- Fantasy Island reboot on the cards - The New Indian Express - December 18th, 2020
- She was in Iraq when her son was killed. Four years later, the police have no leads. - Houston Chronicle - December 17th, 2020
- Sushmita Sen And Rohman Shawl Vacay In Dubai, Her Brother, Rajeev And Wife, Charu To Join Them Soon - BollywoodShaadis.com - December 16th, 2020
- Nipsey Hussle, The LAPD And The Inescapable Trap Of Gang Affiliation - NPR - December 14th, 2020
- This Alberta dad sat through 30 hours of tattoo pain so his son would feel better about birthmark - CBC.ca - December 11th, 2020
- Mom-to-be Kareena Kapoor Khan snapped with hubby Saif Ali Khan; latter's new tattoo grabs everyone's atte - Times of India - December 11th, 2020
- Gwen Stefani reveals why shes delayed Blake Shelton wedding - Metro.co.uk - December 9th, 2020
- Madonna, 62, Gets Her Very 1st Tattoo and the Beautiful Design Is Touchingly Beautiful - Us Weekly - December 8th, 2020
- At the age of 68, Purnimas mother with a tattoo on her arm! - Primetime - December 8th, 2020
- Lost Gypsy Tattoo holds giveaway to encourage holiday sponsorship of veterans, children in need - Hazard Herald - December 5th, 2020
- Chris Evans and His Dog, Dodger, Have the Purest Bond See Their Cutest Photos - POPSUGAR - December 5th, 2020
- Press photographer's new collections of snapshots bring Swindon's history to life - Swindon Advertiser - December 2nd, 2020
- Justin Bieber wants 'a little tribe' of kids with wife Hailey Baldwin - Metro.co.uk - December 1st, 2020
- Merrill man charged with making child pornography after investigators say they identified him by his tattoo - Wausau Daily Herald - November 25th, 2020
- Kunal Kemmu's tattoo will leave you impressed - Times of India - November 25th, 2020
- Karan Mehra And Nisha Rawal Celebrate 8th Wedding Anniversary, Share Photoshoot Pictures With Kavish - BollywoodShaadis.com - November 25th, 2020
- Dipika Kakkar Flaunts 'Shoaika' Tattoo, Calls it Her Reason for Happiness - News18 - November 25th, 2020
- When Tracey was Traci: Emin's unseen early paintings published for the first time - The Guardian - November 23rd, 2020
- Dipika Kakar gets a tattoo of 'Shoaika' on her hand dedicated to her and Shoaib's love - News Track English - November 21st, 2020
- 2021 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture [Updated November 19] - Gold Derby - November 20th, 2020
- I'm A Celebrity: Jordan gets a helping hand from Gavin and Stacey - Metro.co.uk - November 20th, 2020
- Lisa Congdon On Creativity, Activism, and Finding Your Flow - Brit + Co - November 20th, 2020
- Is it the last of the Camden Lock mohicans? - Camden New Journal newspapers website - November 18th, 2020
- Is Angelina Pivarnick already headed for divorce? Heres why Jersey Shore fans think she and Chris L ... - Monsters and Critics - November 18th, 2020
- Unseen Pictures Of Arpita Khan Sharma And Aayush Sharma From 'Grih Pravesh' Ceremony Post-Wedding - BollywoodShaadis.com - November 18th, 2020
- Police release pictures of three men wanted for knife and bat attack on woman in Lancaster - Lancashire Post - November 16th, 2020
- Tattoo Inks Market Expected To Witness A Sustainable Growth Over 2026 - PRnews Leader - November 6th, 2020
- Brooklyn, son of David Beckham, is the latest popular child to reveal a face tattoo - DodoFinance - November 5th, 2020
- Dad ridiculed after getting tattoos of his kids POO on his leg as gobsmacked people joke I thought Id seen - The Sun - November 5th, 2020
- Kajal Aggarwals fan gets her name tattooed on the formers wedding day. See PHOTOS - Times of India - October 31st, 2020
- First day of tier 3 restrictions in Sutton - in pictures - Mansfield and Ashfield Chad - October 31st, 2020
- Tattoo Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images - October 30th, 2020
- Kunal Kemmu's Stylish Tiger Tattoo Took 4 Years to Complete and It Looks Awesome - Report Door - October 30th, 2020
- Larissa Lima has yet another cosmetic procedure, promises pictures after she heals - Monsters and Critics - October 30th, 2020
- Prince Monolulu: The truth behind horse racing's original showman tipster - BBC Sport - October 30th, 2020
- Tattoo artist has nose CUT OFF and horns added to make himself look like Marvel villain Red Skull - The Sun - October 27th, 2020
- Removery Expands To Meet Increasing Tattoo Removal Demand - PRNewswire - October 27th, 2020
- Shaquille O'Neal's Son Shareef Reveals Another Tattoo He Got in Honor of the Late Kobe Bryant - AmoMama - October 27th, 2020
- Chris Evans shares a picture of his pup Dodger resting in the sweetest place - Dog of the Day - October 27th, 2020
- Why Senator Mitch McConnells Hand Appears Discolored, Here Are Some Possibilities - Forbes - October 24th, 2020
- Actress Lake Bell And Husband Scott Campbell Split After 7 Years Of Marriage - YourTango - October 22nd, 2020
- Vanessa Bryant Shares Pictures of Her New Tattoo Honoring Kobe and Gianna - Fox Sports Radio - October 21st, 2020
- Chef Jennifer Zavala on the Best and Worst Things About South Philly - Philadelphia magazine - October 19th, 2020
- Sanjay Dutt Looks Fit And Fabulous in New Pictures After Assuring Fans That he Would Beat Cancer - India.com - October 17th, 2020
- Sushant Singh Rajputs sister shares rare pictures of their mother, who died when SSR was a teenager.... - Hindustan Times - October 17th, 2020
- Newly Married Niti Taylor Gets Husband Parikshits Name Tattooed on Her Ring Finger, Says Very Long Name - India.com - October 16th, 2020
- Niti Taylor Gets Husband Parikshit Bawa's Name Tattooed on Finger as 2nd Month Anniversary Gift - News18 - October 16th, 2020
- The Argonaut Pen and Oak Tattoo opens shop - Argonaut - October 16th, 2020