One hour and 45 minutes passed, and Edmund “Clyde” Gates was still waiting in the parking lot of the French Robertson Prison Unit in Abilene. He was waiting to see his father for the first time in nearly two decades.
“I actually didn’t sleep at all; I’ve been up all night,” said the senior wide receiver from Vernon just before seeing his father.
Gates was supposed to drive to the prison and pick up his father, but before he had the chance his cousin, who made the trip with him, had already picked him up.
Driving to the parking lot of the Robertson Unit, Gates spotted a familiar car coming from the prison and carrying his father. The car quickly pulled a U-turn and followed behind on a side road – and for the first time in 15 years, Gates laid eyes on his father.
“It was just relief,” Edmund said. “It was overwhelming, because it’s something I always wanted.”
Gates walked up to his father and shook his hand, but Edward Gates instead pulled his son in tight and held him for the first time in a long time.
“It’s a lot of emotions for me, because I have been gone so long and he was so young when I left, he was just a baby,” Edward Gates said.
Edward Gates was incarcerated in 1992 for his part in a murderÂ involving drugs in Wichita County. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 20 years without his son.
“I knew there was the possibility that I might not get out until 2012,” Edward said. “How could I tell a six year old that ‘you might be 24 or 26 when I get out.'”
He couldn’t and he didn’t. Every time he spoke with his son on the phone he said three simple things: I’m coming home soon, mind your mother, and mind your grandmother.
And Edmund did.
“I knew that I could follow his footsteps and it would be real easy,” Edmund said. “He had a lot of respect in our community.”
All Edmund would have needed to do to find trouble was mention his father’s name. But he heeded his fathers advice, kept his nose clean and went a different way.
However, Edmund was still tempted to fall into the lifestyle so many people he knew had already fallen into.
“Of course there were temptations,” Edmund said. “Me coming to Abilene Christian was my escape from the streets and just that type of lifestyle.”
It wasn’t just the temptations he had to ignore – it was the people who told him he was going to be just like his daddy.
“He told me he would hear this all day everyday ‘you’re just like your daddy, you’re going to do the same things as your daddy, you’re going to be in trouble,'” Edward said.
But in a letter Edmund wrote his father, he said he had gone the other way and had surprised them. He wasn’t just the chip off the old block like everyone had told him.
Edmund proved them wrong again when an unusual set of circumstances brought him to the university in 2007. When his cousin and former Wildcat Bernard Scott came to ACU to play football, Edmund decided to come with him. At the time, he was a basketball player in Vernon and figured he would follow his cousin and try to earn a spot on the basketball roster.
During the summer Edmund decided he would give football a try. The receiver approached head coach Chris Thomsen and asked if he could play football. After a tryout, Gates made the team and began to play that season.
“He didn’t play high school football,” Thomsen said. “He was a basketball little five-feet nine-inches guy in high school.”
He has turned into much more than that, both as a player and as a man.
“I’ve seen him handle all kinds of situations, and I know he’ll handle this one just as well as all the others,” Thomsen said.
Edmund attributes his entire situation and his life – both the good and the bad – to being part of God’s plan, which he believes played a part in how his father was released.
Edmund was ready to meet his father as soon as he heard the news nearly two weeks ago that his father would be released in Huntsville. A week-and-a-half later Edmund learned his father would be released Oct. 20 in Abilene.
Edward never requested to be released in the city where his son lives and plays football, but that’s how it worked out.
“I thought about it and said ‘it’s a blessing from God,'” Edward said.
After 18 years of only seeing him inside prison walls, Edmund will finally look up in the stands one Saturday and see his father.
“I always knew that one day he would show up,” Edmund said.