BEAVERTON, Ore. — Dillon Bates knows where he's going to play his college football. All fans know for the next several hours is that it's going to be in the Southeastern Conference.
That all changes when the FOX Sports NEXT four-star outside linebacker declares on national television at 8 p.m. EST. The three finalists are Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.
"I'm ready," Bates told InsideTennessee. "I'm ready to go. I'm excited. It's going to be awesome."
The coaching staffs at the three schools have all been informed of his decision.
"I'm pretty ready to go," Bates said. "I know just the past few months, I've definitely thought about it a lot more, and I'm 100-percent on what I want to do."
Powerful BCS programs all across the country offered a scholarship to the Ponte Vedra (Fla.) High School standout. The process of elimination to simply get down to the Crimson Tide, Gators and Volunteers wasn't easy.
"When you sit down to try and make out a list," Bates said, "you get a top 5 and you think of another school and you're like, 'Oh, wait, let's go with six. Oh, wait, let's go with seven.' All these schools that definitely like separately makes it, 'I don't want to go there.' There's always those schools that are all great, and I just liked having the opportunity to play there. But, I just had to get it down to a top 3 so I could make a decision and be 100-percent with it."
Tennessee coach Butch Jones made contact with Bates only hours after accepting the job in Knoxville and leaving Cincinnati. That resonated with Bates. Alabama and Florida didn't just throw in the towel as each Southeastern Conference rival ventured to Ponte Vedra, Fla., in the spring to see Bates practice.
"They've all been out trying to recruit me as much as they could," Bates said.
Bates tripped up to Rocky Top back in November to see Tennessee host Missouri at Neyland Stadium. He came again at least three times earlier this year, only missing the Orange & White game on April 20 to attend prom.
Having an aunt and uncle in nearby Farragut plays a role in the trips to Knoxville. Bates, whose father Bill Bates played at Tennessee and with the Dallas Cowboys, also has a grandmother that lives east of campus in Gatlinburg.
"It's a few," Bates said of his visits to Tennessee's campus. "I can't really count. You know we have family up there, so whenever we go visit the family we always try to stop by, just talk to the coaches, take another tour of the facilities, see what's different, see what's new. So, I don't know, I think it's like four or five (unofficial visits)."
The primary reason for being on Nike's campus wasn't for a stage for his declaration. Rather it's been to compete against some of country's best high school football players. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was pleased with his performance on Monday.
"Nobody caught a ball on me," he said. "So, I thought I performed pretty well."
Check back with FOX Sports NEXT and InsideTennessee later for more on Bates' decision.