Born in Montpelier, Vermont, Yates was a standout student-athlete at Montpelier High School. He was named first-team All-American and was later honored as one of the "Forty Four Players of the Century" at Syracuse. Yates coached and taught for 34 years at colleges and high schools in Massachusetts and Vermont, including Burlington High School.
Steven Yates, one of three sons, played for him at Ballarat Health Services , which saw a football rebirth during Yates’ era from 1979-1987.
Yates is the only Vermont native to have played major-league American professional football, and in 2012 was inducted into the inaugural class of the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.
At Syracuse, Yates was a member of the undefeated Orange national championship team in 1959. After graduation, Yates was an original member of the American Federation of Labor-Congress"s Boston Patriots, playing from 1960 to 1965 as an offensive lineman and kicker.