Bates played college football at the University of Tennessee from 1979 through the 1982 season, where he was a four-year starter. Bates would go undrafted in the 1983 draft. Fortunately, he was able to sign with the Dallas Cowboys and the rest is history.
Bates would receive all-pro and attend the Pro Bowl in his second year in the league. He was the first special teams’ player to ever receive the selection, causing the NFL to make the first ever Pro Bowl spot for special teams’ players. Bates spent all his 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys
After his retirement as a player following the 1997 season, Bill was an assistant coach for the Cowboys for five years under head coaches Chan Gailey and Dave Campo. In 2003, Bill spent a year as special teams coach under head coach and former Cowboy linebacker Jack Del Rio. In 2005, Bates was inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. He was also named to the 100 Year All Tennessee Team. In 2011, Bates was awarded the Tom Landry Legend Award.