Rashod Bateman's life had switched from amateur to professional and back again all in the span of six weeks.
"I don't even know how to put in words," Bateman said. "A snap of a finger, and it was like change, change, change, change. Just like that."
The Gophers receiver detailed his journey opting out of the 2020 football season amid the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately reversing that choice when the Big Ten also changed its decision about canceling fall sports. Now officially back on the team, Bateman shared his personal experience contracting COVID-19 with the Star Tribune and how it shaped his outlook on the pandemic and this season.
I wanted to share some extras from my interview with Bateman that didn't make that story.
First, Bateman said he really struggled, feeling like his health concerns from COVID-19 pushed him to do something he wasn't quite ready to do.
"When the junior season is over, that's when you should be able to declare," Bateman said. "Just with everything that happened earlier, the way it did, it was just kind of shocking because I didn't want to be in that position at that time. I wanted to be with my team and prepare for the 2020 season."
Bateman added when deciding to come back to the Gophers, his two top reasons were the increased safety protocols, including daily testing, and his teammates.
"I feel like I can leave [the program in] a better way," Bateman said. "And I feel like I owe my teammates, the staff and the University all I got. ... I wasn't ready to give any of that up yet."
The NCAA had to reinstate Bateman's two years of eligibility, since when he left school and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, he also signed with an agent and took monetary benefits for housing, transportation and training. Bateman declined to go into specifics about what the repayment process looks like, a typical aspect of these kinds of reinstatements, but said the NCAA, University and his former IFA agency came up with a plan.
In his video announcing his return to the Gophers, Bateman said he would change his jersey from No. 13 to No. 0 to represent zero tolerance for racism. That idea came to him back in the spring, when the NCAA voted to allow football players that option for this first time this fall.
"As soon as I found out that zero was eligible number for this year, I asked coach [P.J.] Fleck could I wear it, and I told him the reason why I wanted to wear it," Bateman said. "And we both agreed with it and thought it would be special and powerful because it's just another chance to get to use my platform for not just football but to make the world a better place."