Bates, a native of Heflin (Cleburne County) and all-state football player at Heflin High School. He was a defensive lineman for the Tide from 2001 (as a true freshman) until 2004 when he was a permanent captain. Bates was signed as an undrafted free agent by the NFL's Tennessee Titans on April 26, 2005, but was released on August 29 before playing a game as a professional. Bates has run the Todd Bates Football Skills Camp in Heflin since 2007, expanding to a second camp in Oxford in 2008.
In June 2008, Crimson Tide football strength and conditioning assistant coach, and former teammate, Freddie Roach asked Bates to write a poem to inspire the football team. The result, The Bama Way, has been featured on T-shirts, originally sold exclusively at Hibbett Sports. The five-stanza, 134-word poem is now a banner hanging in the office of UA strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, and has been read to the team.
- Strickland, Bran (July 4, 2008) "More than camp: Ex-Heflin star Bates 'called to do' it." Anniston Star
- Rappaport, Ian R. (August 30, 2008) "'Bama Way' poem part of a popular T-shirt." Birmingham News