Minnesota Duluth left tackle Peter Bateman began feeling sick around the fourth or fifth game last season.
He initially blew it off, thinking it was just a cold, but it became worse and worse, to the point where he couldn’t hold down food and he lost his appetite and weight.
Stubborn to a fault, Bateman returned home to La Crescent, Minn., for Christmas break in December and worked out at the high school. He felt awful, and when he hit the showers afterward, it finally hit him.
“I threw up my breakfast and a bunch of water and I just kept throwing up, and then I started throwing up blood,” Bateman said. “Pretty soon I had a pool of blood that almost covered the entire shower.”
Bateman was suffering from an allergic condition that created bleeding ulcers in his esophagus. His health and weight returned, and now the 6-foot-6, 285-pound senior is an NFL prospect. Only, you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. Bateman remains humble and quiet.
UMD coach Curt Wiese said Bateman has garnered more NFL exposure than any player he has ever had, and Wiese has coached some great ones, including the Bulldogs’ all-time leading rusher Isaac Odim, 2012 NCAA Division II lineman of the year Garth Heikkinen and offensive tackle Jake Bscherer.
“Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an NFL team that hasn’t been on campus,” Wiese said. “We’ve never had a guy with this many NFL scouts who came through to evaluate him.”
Wiese recruited Bateman out of La Crescent, and he has since become a four-year starter for the Bulldogs.
Bateman grew up in a conservative Christian family, the son of Gordon and Penny Bateman.
The family kept things simple. They kept chickens in the yard. They had a TV but didn’t have all the channels. Peter said he watched a lot of movies.
“Pete embraced his background when he got here, which I thought was important,” Wiese said. “Our football team embraced it and understood and welcomed Pete like anyone else. It took Pete a while to kind of come into his own as far as socially and to be a little more outspoken.”
Bateman simply isn’t a big talker but is clearly respected, given the fact he was named a UMD captain by his teammates. He leads with his work ethic and example.
“I have a lot of respect for his parents and the way they’ve raised Pete,” Wiese said. “He’s a tremendous person, and someone our young offensive lineman look up to and inspire to be, as far as a player and a leader.”
Bateman started four seasons on the offensive and defensive lines at La Crescent High School. He also played baseball. He was high school teammates and current roommate with UMD nose guard Isaac Vesel.
Bateman had interest from the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State, Winona State and St. Cloud State. He visited UMD after visiting Winona, about a half hour from La Crescent. He said the Gophers offered him preferred walk-on status, and South Dakota State offered him a free ride, but not until after he committed to UMD.
“The main reason I came to UMD is that I felt like I belonged,” Bateman said. “Other guys on the team who I met on my official visit were here to win. Obviously, you’re here to have a college experience, but they were here for something more than just that. They were here for a purpose.”
Bateman has been a staple of UMD’s offensive line since redshirting as a freshman in 2012, starting 41 straight games and counting. He anchored an offensive line that paved the way for the NSIC’s top ground attack last fall, averaging 240.8 rushing yards per game.
After the incident in La Crescent last December, Bateman finally had it checked out. It was discovered he was allergic to dairy, gluten, soy, whey, seafood, nuts and egg whites. He was put on omeprazole, a medication that reduced the inflammation and started reducing the ulcers. Combined with a change in diet, Bateman said the ulcers are pretty much gone.
The Vikings and the Bears were the first NFL teams to show interest in Bateman last March, coming to campus and working him out. They liked what they saw, according to Wiese.
“They knew at that point that athletically, he was the type of player they were looking for,” Wiese said. “What has made coaching Pete so enjoyable is that he is so focused on day to day. He hasn’t let any of this get into his head. It’s not easy coming to practice every day when you’re shaking a scout’s hand, or they’re standing next to you in drill work and evaluating everything you do. He’s gone about business as usual, which is a testament to Pete and his character.”
The scouts weighed him and measured him, his height, wing span and hand width. He clocked as fast as 4.88 seconds in the 40-yard dash, excellent for a man his size. Bateman might be 6-6 and 285, but it’s a lean 285, if one can fathom that. While he needs to continue to gain weight to improve his NFL prospects, he said it’s very doable given his frame and despite all the things he can’t eat.
Bateman, who will graduate in December with a degree in communications, doesn’t expect to be invited to the NFL combine but will probably test in front of scouts at Minnesota’s or Iowa State’s Pro Day.
Until then, Bateman is going to continue to just be “Pete,” and not act like a big man on campus, even if he is a big man on campus.
“I’m pretty down to earth, and what happens, happens,” Bateman said. “I’m just focusing on what’s in front of me. Obviously, after the season, I’ll work as hard as I can to achieve that (the NFL dream), but I’m not walking around thinking I’m hot stuff just because scouts are looking at me. I don’t know if it’s so much my upbringing or what, but I just hate people who are stuck up.”
UMD (1-1) at Concordia-St. Paul (2-0)
What: NSIC game
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Sea Foam Stadium
Forecast: Mostly cloudy with a high of 67 and 11 mph wind
Radio: WWAX-FM 92.1