REMEMBER WHEN, MR. WILLIS: Bishop literally put his hometown on the map
Michael Bishop is Willis, Texas.
He's tough, he's all about family and isn't afraid of hard work.
Taking a stroll down memory lane with Bishop, he is thankful for the opportunities he was given and is now paying it forward to local athletes as the head coach of Legacy School of Sports Sciences.
"My coach put me on varsity as a freshman as a starting receiver," he said. "Just to be in the locker room with my older brother and older cousins at that young age – it was all about family and really special."
Bishop got his shot at QB1 as a junior and things turned quickly.
"Back in middle school, I knew I was blessed athletically," he said. "I had something that other people had to work really hard for. I couldn't let that go to waste, so I put in even more work.
"My junior year, we went to the playoffs and my senior year went won a playoff game. We were kids just playing football and didn't really realize that we lit a spark in the city. We gave the locals something to cheer about and be proud of. We really didn't know how much it meant at the time."
Bishop went from the small town of Willis to Blinn Junior College, where it was sink or swim for the teenager. I failed to mention that he turned down a MLB contract to follow his passion for football.
"I saw some of the best athletes in my life at Blinn and they weren't even in pads and a uniform," he laughed. "I just saw the work ethic and the frustration inside of them not making it to a DI school. You put that together and there is real hunger. That turns to greatness. I had to keep pace because it was a battle at every work out and during every single snap."
His work paid off as Bishop led the Bucs to back-to-back NJCAA National Championships at QB. The "Battle for Bishop" attracted college programs from across the country to get Bishop to sign with them.
Kansas State and coach Bill Snyder convinced Bishop to come to Manhattan… Kansas.
"I played multiple positions in high school and coaches wanted me as a receiver or defensive back," he said. "Coach Snyder was really genuine and thought I could compete for the starting QB job. It was the best decision I made."
Bishop went off as a junior, throwing for 1,550 yards and scored 22 TDs. He led the Wildcats to a 1997 Fiesta Bowl win and was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
The momentum started building as his senior year arrived. Kansas State was in the National Championship conversation and was ranked No. 1 during the season. Kansas State?
He threw for over 2,800 yards and 23 TDs and ran for another 700 yards and 14 scores. The Wildcats lost a heart-breaker to Texas A&M in an overtime game in the Big 12 Championship at K-State's title hopes were dashed.
From Manhattan, Kansas to Manhattan, New York – Bishop made it to the biggest stage and was invited to the Heisman Ceremony.
"Here is what is so crazy," he said. "When I was in middle school, I loved Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett. I watched them win Heisman Trophies. I wrote it down on a piece of paper that I still have to day, that one of my goals was to win that Heisman Trophy. I show it to my players even today.
"Being able to bring my parents to New York for that ceremony and all that went with that, was my Heisman Moment. I did enough to win the trophy, but that was enough for me."
He finished second to University of Texas RB Ricky Williams.
Michael Bishop wears a different hat now – as head coach of the Legacy School of Sports Sciences in Spring, Texas.
He still remembers what it is like to be a kid and is really invested in his players.
"When the kids are at school and around me, those might be the best hours of their day," he said. "I don't know what they go home to. There is so much for kids to get lost in these days, so my job is to keep them focused on their education. If they have any athletic ability, let's try and make it grow.
"When I leave school, I really ask myself if I was great for my players today? Could I have done more? I just want them to know they are loved and that they are part of something bigger. I want to give them ownership in something like football, so they will come back tomorrow."