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Jessie Bates III's tattoos tell a story. They illustrate what he stands for and those he works so hard to represent, also serving as reminders of what's important during times of stress. Learn about them and you learn about the star Falcons safety, which is what will happen in the first installment of our "Behind the Ink" series.

Story by Scott Bair

Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III #30 is filmed for a tattoo feature at Ticketmaster Studios in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Jessie Bates III will never forget the events of September 24, 2016. He was a redshirt freshman representing Wake Forest, playing in his native Indiana for the first time since joining the college football ranks.

The safety from Fort Wayne had close friends and family watching that Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, just three hours from where he grew up. The homecoming on its own would've made the game memorable.

What happened after kickoff etched this day in Jessie Bates lore. He had two interceptions against the Hoosiers, including a first-quarter pick returned 39 yards to set up a Wake Forest touchdown. He added another one himself, returning a second-quarter interception 55 yards for a score.

Those game-changing moments in a 33-28 Wake Forest win made Bates the man of the hour. Despite how well he played and all the adulation received, he wanted to show this big moment wasn't all about him.

That's why, when he met his mother after the game, he didn't recount recent accomplishments.

Bates extended his right arm instead, without preamble or context.

There was something new there, a name permanently inscribed on the inside of his wrist.



Bates got that tattoo to honor this mother and create a daily reminder of how much she means to him and his journey from Fort Wayne to Wake Forest, from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Atlanta Falcons. Theresa raised Jessie as a single mother, working multiple jobs to set Jessie and his siblings up for success. She somehow made sure Jessie made it to his football camps and practices, while still finding time to have hot meals on the table when he got home. He never forgot those moments, all the hard and sacrifices made for her kids.

That commitment, that support, meant everything to Jessie, even as a college kid. That's why he proudly tattooed his mother's name and her birthday across his wrist. He inked his older sister's and his little brother's birthdates (in Roman numerals) on his shoulders a little while later.


"My siblings have always been my rock," the star Falcons safety said. "I've got my mom and got my siblings no matter what. We've always been a very close-knit type of family, so I wanted to get something dedicated to them."

Bates has put similar thought and feeling into each tattoo received over the years, with artwork now covering his chest, half his ribcage and his entire right arm.

"All my tattoos have a meaning," Bates said. "I don't just get tatted just to get tatted."

There's no vanity behind the artwork. The images explain Bates and his bedrock beliefs, from his faith to his family to pride in his hometown. They also serve as reminders of what's important, especially during times of stress.

His first tattoo is rooted in faith, drawn when he was a young, athletic junior at Snider High School in Fort Wayne. He had wingtips added to his shoulders, with "Jesus gave me the strength to spread my wings" across his chest. Sure, the tattoo looked cool with a basketball jersey on. But the words and their meaning resonated with a young player trying to make it big.

Then Bates added "Faith" and "Believe" to his arm. Another tattoo was inspired by feeling down while recovering from a knee injury during his redshirt sophomore year in college, using the down time to recover physically and spiritually. That's when he decided to get Proverbs 3:5-6 etched into his upper arm.

He also added Indiana's state line, with personal and popular landmarks from Fort Wayne within it. That's below the inscription "Small city, big dreams," which drove Bates so much as a child.

Those images are there so, no matter where he goes in life, Bates won't forget his roots.

Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III #30 is filmed for a tattoo feature at Ticketmaster Studios in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

"I wanted this whole sleeve to be about faith, about belief and about where I came from," Bates said. "I was slowly doing it piece by piece. The main theme is, is about belief. 'Just believe' is something that my motto that I live by, not just on the field, but off the field as well.

"It just represents everything that I've been through. And if you believe and you keep your faith strong though those hard times where you start questioning a lot of things, you can get through anything."

His latest edition was the most painful, an eight-hour sitting to add his JB3 logo with "just believe" across his right ribcage. The logo is a testament to what he's doing as an adult, thriving in an NFL career that has led him to Atlanta on a four-year contract. The acronym is also part of his JB3 Single Mother's Initiative, a way to support single moms raising kids on their own the way Theresa did so many years ago.

Bates has "stepped back from the ink," as he puts it, with possible plans to his young child and other kids if he has them in the future. What he has, however, serves a great purpose. They state what he stands for and why he's working so hard to achieve success.

"When I look down at them," Bates said, "I kind of remind myself of why I'm doing things."

Falcons safety Jessie Bates III honors family and bedrock beliefs with permanent artwork, which reminds him of what's truly important.

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