Co-Authored by Jaclyn Galvin and Sam Gordon
Former New England Patriots quarterback and Kansas State Hall of Famer Michael Bishop can say something not many players can: Tom Brady was his backup.
Bishop was second string and Brady was fourth on the depth chart. He told Prime Time Sports Talk that the two made a pact.
“We made a promise to each other, he said to me ‘If you get an opportunity, don’t give it back,’” Bishop recounted. “I said the same thing if he gets an opportunity to play don’t give it back and his opportunity came up.”
Bishop started playing football at age seven. The Kansas State alum said if you did not have a helmet on, people thought you were weird.
“In Texas, football is religious,” Bishop said. “If you’re not playing football, you’re kind of looked at a little strange. That’s the culture of the Texas people.”
His skills at quarterback were evident, and he made the Varsity team his freshman year of high school as the backup. But to keep him on the field, coaches put him in the receiver and defensive back positions.
“I played pretty well, but it just wasn’t my perfect spot,” Bishop said.
It was not long before he realized he could make some money throwing a football. However, winning was always his first priority.
“It was when I was in Kansas State and we had a nice run for the National Championship [when I thought I could pursue football as a career],” Bishop said. “My biggest thing is that I’ve been a winner all my life. I don’t care about the money, I don’t care about anything, I just want to win championships.”
Little do people know, Bishop was not a highly recruited prospect. He actually almost never played college football at all.
“Coming out of high school, I got drafted by the [Cleveland] Indians to play baseball,” Bishop said. “I was gonna go do that but then I actually started getting used to the wooden bat, I told my Mom, ‘I really wanna play baseball, but I wanna play football as well.’ So I decided I was gonna play baseball.”
Bishop though recruited by the University of Texas to play baseball, decided to play football. This came at a price.
“Once I decided to play football, they said, ‘I had to pay for the first semester.’” Bishop said.
He was confused because he was originally offered a four-year scholarship but now was told his first semester was not covered. This prompted his enrollment at Blinn.
There, as a quarterback, he lead the team to an undefeated record his freshman year and back-to-back Junior College National Championships.
After two years at Blinn, Bishop transferred to Independence Community College to be closer to Kansas State.
“In Texas, you have to graduate from Junior College before you leave. But in Kansas, you can transfer in,” Bishop stated. “So in order to transfer into K-State, I transferred to Independence to play baseball. And then I was able to go right in and be familiar with everything that was going on in Kansas.”
Bishop got familiar quick. In his first season, he won Big-12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, the Davey O’Brien Award, was named Second team All-Big-12, and led his team to a Fiesta Bowl Championship.
His big accomplishments came his senior year when he was given All-Big-12 honors, named a consensus All-American and was the runner up for the Heisman Trophy. Losing to Texas running back Ricky Williams.
“It’s funny because me and Ricky are actually good friends. Whenever K-State plays against UT, we always meet up,” Bishop said. “His Mom was there once and I told his Mom, ‘You know that’s supposed to be my trophy.’”
After being the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, one would think Bishop would get drafted high.
Not exactly. Bishop was drafted in the seventh round (227th overall) by the New England Patriots in 1999. His family was more excited than he was.
“In Texas, from the time you come out of the womb, you play football,” Bishop said. “Every kid from the time [they start playing], their goal is get to the NFL and to see my name on Draft Day was emotional because of all the work in and the blood sweat and tears but for me actually I live in the moment, I enjoy the moment.”
But his fans in the Lone Star State did not know exactly where he was going.
“There were some fans that I knew in Texas that were like ‘where’s New England? What’s going on in New England? Where’s the stadium?’ They asked all kinds of questions,” Bishop recalled.
He arrived in New England in 1999, a year before current Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was drafted. The two became close.
“From the time I was [in New England], me and Brady used to hangout. We used go to this place called ‘The Rack,’ and I got some stories I can’t tell you,” Bishop said. “But from actually being around Brady, at the time [Drew] Bledsoe was the starter and I finally got moved up to backup, me and Brady spent a lot time before practice and after practice, we shared a lot of stories and goals we both had.”
Before Brady usurped Bledsoe on the depth chart, Bishop threw his one and only NFL touchdown pass: a Hail Mary at the end of the first half against the Indianapolis Colts.
“It was kinda a question of, ‘Should we do it? Or should we take a knee or what?’ What should we do?” Bishop recounted. “I told Charlie Weiss ‘let me throw it’ and right before I went on the field Charlie says ‘touchdown.’ A lot of people don’t think that a Hail Mary is going to be a touchdown, but when I threw the ball, I think I rolled a little to the right. But when I threw the ball, I knew it was a good ball. I knew it was going to the end zone. And Tony Simmons, I knew he could jump, so I just said to myself, ‘Just get it up there, put enough air on it and let him see the ball.’ But he came down with the catch so I’ll take the TD.”
Even though nearly two decades have past since he donned a Patriots uniform, Bishop was shocked at a signing when a line of fans were waiting to meet him and get his autograph.
“As a football player, once you leave the city that you play for, you kinda think that they’ll forget about you. But they really don’t because you never know the impact that you have on the fans. And I think a lot of players don’t really realize the influence,” Bishop said. “You see a fan, and you never know what they’re going through. And you think, I could be that person. I think that a lot of players don’t really understand the magnitude. But for me I get it because I know that the same amount of work that I’m putting in the fans are putting in. To me it’s bigger than football.”
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