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."
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Courtesy of Naomi Green
In another universe, La Porte's Naomi Green probably would've never put on a pair of running shoes.
Instead, she'd likely have been a star basketball or tennis player. Maybe she would've stuck with volleyball longer and given that a shot. Or, maybe, she would be cheering to her heart's content on the drill team.
But she wouldn't have been a district champion and state qualifying cross country runner. Not if it hadn't been for her seventh-grade basketball coach.
"They told us we couldn't play basketball until we ran two cross country meets," Green said. "I didn't really like running, but I did it for basketball. I placed second overall in my first meet. Going out there, I didn't find myself getting tired and I went faster and faster.
"From then on, I was like, OK, I guess I'm pretty good at this. Why not stick with it?"
And just like that, little did she know, Green had set course for a future on the course.
Now Green, a four-year letterman, is the captain of a La Porte girls cross country team that has won 10 consecutive district championships. She has ambitions of running in college and having her tuition paid for, and she will accomplish those because of how fast she is.
Green, a student council historian who wants to be a world history professor, has personal records of 5-minutes, 24.14-seconds in the 1600-meter run, 12-minutes, 02.0-seconds in the 3200-meter run, and 19-minutes, 15-seconds in the 5000-meter run. She placed third last week at the Region III cross country preview in Huntsville.
"I was raised into dance and basketball so heavily," said Green, whose mother was a runner at La Porte and whose father was a football player. "I never looked at running as an outlet. I knew my mom did that, but I had just always figured that was her thing and I was different. When it shifted and it ended up being running, it was a shock to me. But I feel I've made the best out of it."
Green spoke more with VYPE.
La Porte senior Naomi Green.Courtesy of Naomi Green
VYPE: At what point did you decide just to focus on running?
GREEN: I played basketball up until the summer before my ninth-grade year. I was in dance, on the drill team, my freshman year and I ran my first cross country season practicing with the boys team because there was no room for me in the girls class because I was in dance at the time. I would practice with the girls after school and, of course, race meets with them, but during school I was training with the boys. I placed second at district my freshman year, and from there I was like, hey, maybe I really do have a shot at this. After that year, I shifted to running. It was something I was serious about and realized I wanted to go to school for, so I stopped dancing, moved into the girls cross country period.
VYPE: Did practicing with the boys team do anything for you as far as helping you as a runner?
GREEN: Boys are naturally pretty fast and have a lot more stamina than women. Training with them and being with their amazing coach (then-La Porte head boys cross country and track and field coach Zach Johnson, now at Clear Lake), who took me under his wing, was big. He didn't train me like a boy, but he pushed me like one. I wasn't running the same distances, but he motivated me to catch some of the boys and I'd keep working hard until I caught up with them.
VYPE: What did you learn from qualifying for the state meet last year, and what did you take away that you can build on for this season?
GREEN: Sometimes you've just got to get out. Jump in the deep end and see where the cards fall. With that being my first time, we had practiced all year to go as a team. When my team didn't quite make it, but I made it individually, it was hard to stand on that line before the gun went off. It's hard to do that alone. You've got to know mentally that even though your teammates aren't on that line with you, they're still with you. Just go.
VYPE: The girls team is on a 10-year run of district titles. What is it about Coach (Carolina) Rodriguez's style or culture that has enabled that consistent success?
GREEN: It's her determination. She takes whatever girls she has and pushes them to their fullest potential. She makes us understand that we can do more and are stronger than we think we are. Whether we're a sprinter, hurdler, jumper, distance runner, she'll take you and mold you into who you want to be. It builds life characteristics.
VYPE: What have you learned personally under Coach Rodriguez and what has she done for you and your running career?
GREEN: I've met a lot of coaches from high schools, and I don't think they care as much for their student-athletes as a person as Coach Rodriguez does. They care for them for running and athletics, but Coach tries hard to connect with you on a personal level. She makes sure your grades are up and not having any issues at home, and if you are, she makes sure you know you can come talk to her. She tries her best to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
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