Atlanta Falcons defensive backs bridge the gap between football and basketball this off-season

According to this recent article from’s Amna Subhan, the Atlanta Falcons chose diversification as they utilized basketball as a training mechanism to help their game in football, helping to bridge the gap between the two sports. Defensive backs Dee Alford, Demarcco Hellams and Clark Phillips III, as well as others, have been going up to local gyms and competing in exhibition games against “church league guys,” college players and anyone else who so happens to pull up to the gym at the right time. Falcons’ safety Jessie Bates III takes it a step further as he is friends with former Louisville Cardinal and current Toronto Raptors center Malik Williams.

Leave it to Bates to set the standard, yet again.

One of the hottest debates in youth sports development recently has been early sport specialization vs. diversification. Do you have your child specialize in a sport to where, by the time they are ready to go to college, they are essentially a master at their craft? Or do you allow the child to experiment in different sports, giving them that window into different ways that the body has to move in different situations? In a 2017 article from Empire Sports Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation in New York, the benefits of diversification seem to far outweigh the “immediate improvement” shown with specialization. According to the article, diversification can help players in the following ways:

  • Increases cognitive development

  • Improves coordination

  • Increases strength

  • Increases motivation/decreases burnout

  • Decreases the risk of injury

  • NO decrease in the potential for Elite Level Performance.

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In the article, Assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray stated that he wanted his players to not just be good football players but “better than a football player.” With the disparity in talent being so razor thin in the NFL, any advantage could be the difference between making the playoffs and watching them from your couch at home. Subhan’s piece featured Bates and his pride of being a three-sport athlete, as he still plays both basketball and baseball/softball to help him train for the safety position.

“Reading a baseball bat (is the) same thing as a quarterback throwing the ball.” It’s about reading the subtle details of the motion and, as last year proved, Bates has it down to a science.


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