The NFL draft was winding down Saturday evening and midway through the seventh – and final – round Trevor Bates still hadn’t been selected.

Bates, the former Westbrook High and University of Maine star, sat in his mother’s home in Westbrook and began to discuss the free-agent possibilities in a phone call with his agent, Jeff Jankovich, when his cellphone beeped.

It was an incoming call. From the Indianapolis Colts.

“I thought they were calling to talk about signing me as a free agent,” Bates said on Monday. “But it was the secretary. And I was put through to their general manager. That’s when I knew.”

Ryan Grigson, the Indianapolis GM, welcomed Bates to the Colts and a new journey began. Bates was taken with the 239th selection.

“I got a little choked up,” said Bates. “It was the best conversation of my life. I feel blessed.

“It really means the world to me. I’m so excited to start this next chapter in my life.”

It begins early Thursday morning, when he flies to Indianapolis to join his fellow Colts rookies and start his indoctrination into life in the NFL. A defensive end at Maine, where he led the Black Bears with 7.5 sacks last fall and had 19 career sacks, he was drafted as a linebacker by Indianapolis.

That it was the Colts who selected him should be no surprise. Indianapolis was one of two teams, Minnesota the other, who put Bates through a private workout after Maine’s Pro Day was completed. The Colts also flew him out for an official visit. Bates said he clicked with Colts’ scout Mike Derice and linebacker coach Jim Herrmann.

“After meeting Coach Herrmann I thought, ‘This is a guy I could see myself playing for,'” said Bates. “I think it’s a perfect situation for me.”

Just where he’ll actually play remains to be seen. He’s looked at as an edge pass rusher because of his ability to rush the passer but his size (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is more suitable for an inside backer.

“Outside, inside, wherever they want me to play, I’ll play,” said Bates. “They want me to play inside eventually, but I’m going out there now for outside.”

Versatility has always been one of Bates’ strong suits. When he played at Westbrook, he was a two-way player – and not just on the line. He played fullback, tight end and receiver as a freshman, while also playing defense.

“He would have been our best everything,” said Westbrook football coach Jeff Guerette. “We put him in a lot of different spots. He was just always a really good athlete.”

So good that Jack Cosgrove, the former UMaine head coach, didn’t know what to do with him when he arrived in Orono, the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship.

“We had a number of conversations about him, whether he’d play offense or defense,” said Cosgrove. “We had two kids like that. We decided to put Trevor on defense and the other kid on offense and he has kind of grown and evolved into what he is today.”

He actually played middle linebacker at Maine before an injury up front prompted Cosgrove to move Bates to defensive end.

“What I remember most about Trevor from the first time I met him was his eye contact,” said Cosgrove. “He looked you in the eye. And he came across as a kid who loved the game and wanted to play.

“He always had a great attitude about life. He’s a kid who appreciates the gifts he’s been given … football skills and football instincts. And he’s never outworked.”

Joe Harasymiak, UMaine’s first-year head coach, arrived in Orono at the same time as Bates. He remembers a kid who was a little light, but willing to work. “All he needed was strength,” said Harasymiak. “He was born with the ability to do things other kids couldn’t. Once he got in the weight room, things took off.”

Harasymiak said Bates’ versatility will be a plus. He played special teams at Maine – which is where many late-round selections make their living – and had experience as a long snapper.

“It’s been a pleasure to have coached him and been around him to see the boy-to-man growth that he has gone through,” said Cosgrove. “The kid deserves this. He’s earned it.”

Bates isn’t the only former Black Bear going to an NFL camp. Center Bruce Johnson, who won the 2015 Rimington Award given to the nation’s top center in FCS, signed a free-agent deal with Philadelphia.

Bates, meanwhile, joins a short list of Maine high school players who have been drafted into the NFL. Among them, South Portland’s Ed McAleney (Pittsburgh, eighth round in 1976) and Lewiston’s Gerry Raymond (New York Giants, fourth round in 1982).

“I’m honored to represent my state,” said Bates. “I know I’ll have the whole state behind me, they’ve already given me a great deal of support the last couple of days.

“I think there’s definitely going to be more Colts fans in Maine now.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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