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Bishop checks out

Heisman Trophy runner-up opening eyes with Pats


by Peter Madden

From - August 18, 1999

FOXBORO, Mass. (Aug. 18,1999) In an age when a player's statistics are what determines his or her greatness (and monetary value), how do you explain a quarterback who threw or ran for 59 touchdowns and finished runner-up to Ricky Williams for the Heisman Trophy falling to the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft?


"With me, it's not where you get drafted, it's what you do once you get the opportunity to play," said New England Patriots quarterback Michael Bishop, taken 227th overall in April's draft. "All the teams that passed up on me, hopefully I'll have the opportunity to come in and contribute with the Patriots and show them what they missed out on."

After wrapping up a brilliant two-year career at Kansas State in which he led a once-dormant program to two bowl games and a shot at a national title, Bishop had the unenviable task of trying to prove the critics wrong.

They said he was too small.

He's listed at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds and is built like a running back.

He has an inaccurate arm.

Bishop threw 23 touchdowns as a senior at K-State.

He's not a pro-style, pocket passer.

That hasn't stopped Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart, Tennessee's Steve McNair or Jacksonville's Mark Brunell from excelling at the next level.

The bottom line for Bishop is that he's been a winner, whether it's in Manhattan, Kan., or Blinn, Texas, where he was a perfect 24-0 at Blinn Junior College.

So when Bishop entered New England's first preseason game against the Washington Redskins trailing 20-0, it's not hard to believe he fell just short of leading the Pats to a come-from-behind victory in the final minute.

"The guy is a competitor," said quarterback Drew Bledsoe. "He's won a lot of games, and you can see why he's going to be around a while."

While some teams were contemplating drafting Bishop and using him as a running back/quarterback/wide receiver, the Patriots drafted him strictly to play quarterback, and by the early returns from training camp, he's doing quite well, thank you.

"From the word 'go,' this is the kind of guy we thought we might be getting," said head coach Pete Carroll.

Bishop showed that his unpredictable, scrambling style can work in the NFL as he led the Patriots to 2 fourth-quarter touchdowns against Washington. He threw for 148 yards and rushed for another 29 in approximately one quarter of action in his first game as a professional. So far this preseason he's thrown for 191 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for an additional 54 yards.

Bledsoe may be the poster boy for the classic pocket passer, but Bishop brings a different dimension to the offense.

"I call him the anti-Drew," said wide receiver Sean Morey, New England's other seventh-round pick in this year's draft. "He makes things happen. You sometimes don't know how he's going to do it, but he usually finds a way to get it done."

With the Patriots in search of a running back after the loss of Robert Edwards to a serious knee injury, many "experts" thought the Pats might experiment with Bishop at that position. But since the day Carroll and the front office decided to draft him, there's been no talk of developing Kordell Stewart II.

"The way we are approaching this, Michael is a quarterback," Carroll said. "In time, if there are things that are going to help us win, we are going to do it. But right now, we are not going to put him at running back or wide receiver or anything else."

"I feel like I have enough athletic ability to change the scene and give different looks," Bishop said. "Right now everything's just based around the quarterback position."

There's no mistaking who the franchise player is and there's also little doubt that John Friesz is second on the depth chart, but Bishop is showing that what he brings to the team can't be taught in training camp or in the film room.

"I know this is Drew's team, and he's been the leader of this team for a long time," Bishop said. "I'm in a position where I can sit back and learn from a great leader, and that's only going to make me a better player."

It's hard to understand how a proven, award-winning quarterback at a top-notch Division I program would watch 226 names be taken ahead of him in the NFL Draft, where essentially anybody who can throw a tight spiral is taken at some point .

But for Bishop, it's all about getting that opportunity.

"I was grateful that the Patriots we willing to give me a chance," he said. "A lot of teams weren't."


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