Second-Team All-American led the Big Ten and ranked No. 13 in the NCAA FBS in punting in 2010, with his 45.0-yard average. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State senior punter Aaron Bates has been named to the National Football Foundation’s 2011 Hampshire Honor Society, which is comprised of college players from all divisions (NCAA and NAIA) who maintain a 3.2 grade-point average or better. Bates becomes the fifth Spartan to qualify for membership in the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, joining snapper Brian Bury (2007), punter Brandon Fields (2007), quarterback Drew Stanton (2007) and wide receiver Blair White (2010).

A record total of 671 players from 241 schools qualified for membership in the Hampshire Honor Society’s fifth class. Qualifications for membership in the NFF Hampshire Honor Society include: being a starter or a significant substitute in one’s last year of eligibility at an accredited NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III, or an NAIA college or university; achieving a 3.2 cumulative grade-point average throughout the entire course of undergraduate study; and meeting all NCAA-mandated progress towards degree requirements.

“In just the fifth year of this initiative, it gives the NFF great pride to honor so many qualified and accomplished collegiate players as members of this year’s Hampshire Honor Society,” NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell said. “The number of players we are able to recognize has nearly doubled since the first year of the program, showing that you can play football at the highest level and still be a standout student.”

“We have honored nearly 3,000 of our nation’s best and brightest college players over the past five years,” NFF Chairman Archie Manning said. “This program truly shows the power of football in building tomorrow’s leaders.”

 “Aaron Bates is most deserving of this special recognition by the National Football Foundation because he represents the ideal scholar-athlete,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Aaron did everything that he was asked to do here as a student-athlete: in the classroom, on the field and in the community. He also became a respected leader on a Big Ten Championship football team.

“When you look at his numbers, Aaron ranks among the greatest punters in school history.”

A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection (2008-10), Bates graduated in May 2011 with a 3.95 grade-point average in general management. At MSU’s 2011 Academic Gala, he received the Gwendolyn Norrell Community Service and Leadership Award, presented to the student-athlete who best exemplifies the goal of the PACT (Putting Athletes and Community Together) program. Prior to the 2011 season, Bates became the first punter in the 114-year history of Spartan football to be named captain.

The 6-foot, 198-pound Bates led the Big Ten and ranked No. 13 in the NCAA FBS in punting with his 45.0-yard average while earning SI.com second-team All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media.  His 45.0-yard punting average ranked fifth on MSU’s single-season chart.  Bates placed 17 of his 57 punts (30 percent) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and hit 16 punts 50 or more yards.

He averaged 43.4 yards on seven punts against No. 15 Alabama in the 2011 Capital One Bowl, including two kicks downed inside the Crimson Tide 20.

Bates averaged 46.5 yards on four punts in MSU’s 28-22 victory at Penn State, including two kicks placed inside the Nittany Lion 20-yard line. Bates dropped a season-best three kicks inside the 20 against Purdue while averaging 43.4 yards on five punts. He averaged 48.5 yards on six punts at Iowa, including one kick downed inside the 20.

Bates was named Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance at Northwestern, averaging 43.0 yards on six punts and his 21-yard completion to Bennie Fowler off a fake punt helped fuel MSU’s fourth-quarter comeback. 

He averaged 45.0 yards on four punts at Michigan, including a career-long 69-yarder, and placed two kicks inside the 20.

Bates also selected Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after recording season highs in punts (8) and punting yards (363) against Notre Dame, including a 62-yarder, and placing two kicks inside the Irish 20. In addition, his 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charlie Gantt off a fake field goal gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory over the Irish.

The New Concord, Ohio, native finished his career ranked among MSU’s all-time leaders in punts (second at 260), punting yards (second at 10,907) and punting average (seventh at 42.0). He placed 85 of his 260 career punts (33 percent) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.