With the speed and agility of a tailback and a right arm strong
enough to throw a football 93 yards, quarterback Michael Bishop
has led 10th-ranked Kansas State to a 10-1 record--the Wildcats'
best regular-season mark since 1910--and a date with Syracuse in
the Fiesta Bowl. Outside the Big 12, though, Bishop remains a
concealed weapon, like a missile in an underground silo. "That's
O.K.," he says. "I know what I can do."
Not that he hasn't done his best to get the word out. Bishop
came to the Wildcats following two years at Blinn College, a
Texas J.C., where he led the Bucs to a 24-0 record and two
consecutive junior college national championships. During his
first session with the media after arriving at Kansas State last
summer, he compared his skills with those of former Nebraska
All-America Tommie Frazier and the Broncos' John Elway. "I have
confidence in my god-given abilities," Bishop explains. "I felt
from the start I could step in and play, and I said so."
The 6'1", 205-pound Bishop has backed up such talk. He has
rushed for 566 yards and nine touchdowns, both Kansas State
single-season records for a quarterback, while completing 80 of
185 passes for 1,557 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has also
displayed a never-say-die attitude, typified by his
fourth-quarter, touchdown-saving tackle of Texas Tech defensive
end Montae Reagor. After throwing an interception, Bishop was
the only man between Reagor and the end zone; the takedown
helped preserve a 6-2 lead in a game the Wildcats went on to win
13-2. "He hates to lose," Wildcats coach Bill Snyder says, "and
it shows in the way he plays."
Snyder, though, hasn't always been thrilled with his
quarterback's candor. Earlier this season he declared Bishop
off-limits to the media for four weeks after Bishop called some
of his teammates "quitters" in front of reporters following a
56-26 loss at Nebraska. "Coach felt some players might not take
it the right way, but it needed to be said," Bishop explains. "I
felt that after we got down by 20 points, some guys were going
through the motions. The quarterback is supposed to be a leader
of the team."
Although Bishop has endured the occasional rough spot in the
step up to Division I, he has also drawn plenty of praise from
opponents. Even before Bishop passed for 156 yards and rushed
for another 44 in a 37-20 defeat of Colorado, Buffaloes coach
Rick Neuheisel had called him "a great running back playing
quarterback. He makes amazing plays with his arm, but you really
get concerned when he pulls the ball down and runs."
Bishop has been earning raves since his days at Willis High near
Houston. He was recruited by Baylor and Tennessee, but poor
grades forced him to take the junior college route. At Blinn he
caught the attention of Snyder, who needed a quarterback for
1997 to replace the graduating Brian Kavanagh and had heard
tales of Bishop's breaking a teammate's finger with one of his
Bishop is just glad to have the chance to play big-time football
after two years of the junior college variety. "All I would
think about down there was getting to Division I," Bishop says.
"It's what drove me. That's why I'm so glad to be at Kansas
State." Even if he is, for now, still a secret weapon. --M.B.
COLOR PHOTO: VINCENT MUZIK [Michael Bishop in game]