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Gaining ground
'Viable weapon' Bishop turning heads in New England

by Pete Goering

The Topeka Capital-Journal - Monday, August 23, 1999

The headline in Sunday's Boston Herald broke the big news of the day in New England:

"Brilliant Bishop a viable weapon."

Duh. No kidding. And Sammy Sosa's a viable home-run hitter.

Us Kansans already knew that. Us heartland hicks may have become the butt of more late-night jokes than President Clinton, what with this evolution ruckus and all, but we done done our homework on Michael Bishop, and us wheat-enriched folks are way ahead of those highfalutin' Yankees.

We knew what Bishop could do after watching him for two years at Kansas State. What we didn't know -- and I have to bow here to the expertise of the National Football League's personnel people who THINK they know -- is why Bishop was still around in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.

Nine other quarterbacks were drafted before the New England Patriots picked Bishop, the runner-up in last year's Heisman Trophy balloting. I'm sorry, but if there were nine college quarterbacks better than Bishop, my name's Carl Peterson.

Shawn King, out of Tulane, was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay. He looked totally, uh, rookie-ish Saturday night in Arrowhead.

BISHOP, MEANWHILE, has become a crowd favorite in Boston. A week ago, he was one of the few bright spots in the Pats' loss to Washington. Saturday, during New England's victory over Dallas, he won over more fans -- including the ESPN crew -- with a performance reminiscent of what we saw at KSU Stadium the past two years.

On his first series, Bishop scrambled away from pressure to pick up 16 yards and a first down. Later, on fourth-and-5, he improvised again, rolling to his right and throwing on the run to rookie Sean Morey for a 36-yard touchdown. We saw that same play -- what, a hundred times? -- at K-State.

Granted, Bishop was playing against the Cowboys' scrubs, most of whom won't be on the roster when the NFL teams make their first cuts a week from today. But there was no hiding his talent, even if he was facing third-teamers.

Patriot fans are going ga-ga after seeing him for a couple of games. Fans hung around in the end of a rainy exhibition game Saturday for one reason -- to see Bishop.

"This Bishop watch is awful fun to see," New England coach Pete Carroll told the Boston Herald. "People aren't getting very close to him. It's really been exciting. He continues to do things, and we might have a chance to put him in against better players before too long."

BISHOP, WHO REPORTEDLY looked overmatched during mini camp and for much of the Patriots' early training camp, is the Patriots' No. 3 quarterback. For now.

He won't challenge starter Drew Bledsoe, who is at the top of his game. But journeyman backup John Friesz better not get too comfortable.

Carroll said the day New England drafted Bishop that the club didn't foresee him as another "slash" quarterback, the nickname given Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart, the quarterback with running/passing skills who paved the way for the athletic, non-traditional quarterback in the NFL. But the Patriots' coach acknowledges he may be changing his mind.

"I didn't want to use him as a slash-type player," Carroll said, "but every day it looks as if we'll be going in that direction."

Said Bledsoe: "The implied threat of his running around is obvious already. Defenses are going to have to prepare for him just in case we use him. Right now, he's a backup, but his skills are obvious."

Those would be the skills that helped K-State make a run at the national championship, skills the Wildcats will miss this season.

Jonathan Beasley -- or whomever Bill Snyder chooses as Bishop's replacement -- is a nice quarterback, and K-State's offense won't be as bad as some have predicted, considering the loss of so many starters. But as the New England fans quickly have learned, Bishop is a unique player.

It just took the NFL a little longer to realize it.


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