ANDERSON, Ind. — When Robert Mathis calls you one of his "favorite rookies," it's hard not to perk up.
That's how the veteran pass rusher described rookie outside linebacker Trevor Bates last week.
But it turns out Mathis is handing out more than public compliments for his young teammate — he's also giving him sound advice.
"Just make sure, at least once a day, make sure that coach calls me out on a good play, as far as hustle or effort or doing something extra that other players aren't doing," Bates said on Sunday when asked if Mathis has divulged any secrets of the pros.
It may sound like run-of-the-mill advice, but simply being noticed is something guys like Mathis and Bates have each struggled with at some point of their NFL careers. Both are considered "undersized" compared to others at their position, and both come from smaller schools.
Bates, accordingly, said he's been "like a hawk" when it comes to Mathis, watching his every move since being taken in the seventh round of this year's NFL Draft out of Maine.
"Obviously it's huge inspiration, especially seeing Rob, to see what he's done at his size and kind of similar background — he was undersized, came from a smaller school, and I came from that same upbringing," Bates said. "I try to take all that in and really try to emulate his game and see what I can use that he does that works."
Bates cited how Mathis approaches the simple fundamentals as a pass rusher as something that he especially keeps an eye on. After 13 NFL seasons, Mathis has used his elite skillset and proven doubters wrong to the tune of 118 career sacks, 51 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries.
Colts 2016 Round 7 Pick 239 - Trevor Bates
"He plays with great leverage and technique," Bates said. "He's able to set the edge. I try to take that in. Just really everything that he's willing to help me with, I'm willing to take that in."
As it turns out, Mathis has kept an eye on Bates, as well.
With opportunities available for reps in a defense hungry for intense pass rushers, Mathis sees in Bates a young kid with plenty of potential.
"Very smart and instinctive player," Mathis said of Bates. "He's kind of one of my favorite rookies right now, so I'm a big fan. He does what he needs to do to get better each and every day."'Big boys are fun'
It didn't take long for Bates to realize he was in the midst of his first padded practice of his NFL career on Friday at Anderson University.
Bates has played the game for years, obviously, but he said "the physicality and the violence" of the professional game is "a little more present with the pads on."
"Big boys are fun," Bates said when asked about his first day in shoulder pads. "That's really it for me. I'm not the biggest outside linebacker, I'm a little undersized so I've got to really hone in on using my discipline and using discipline with my technique and playing with great leverage and playing behind my hands and taking that with every single rep."
Bates said he was able to hold his own, however, and he's yet to experience his "welcome to the NFL moment."
"Hopefully I'll avoid that and keep playing physical and play how I play," he said. "I've just got to stay great with my technique, and I think I'll be alright."