Friday, January 22, 1999
hoping to put
out those buts
The Hula Bowl can helpBy Paul Arnett
him answer questions about his
desire to play quarterback
in the NFL
KAHULUI -- The 100-odd NFL scouts who crowd around the practice field like autograph-seekers after a game have paid strict attention to Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop.
While Texas running back Ricky Williams is all smiles and Arizona cornerback Chris McAlister is equally content, Bishop's future in the NFL is not quite as clear-cut.
Granted, Bishop is right there with Williams and McAlister in pure ability as the threesome prepares for Sunday's Hooters Hula Bowl at Maui's War Memorial Stadium. Williams will run and McAlister will cover, but just what Bishop does at the next level remains to be seen.
His credentials are impeccable. His numbers equally sound. It's just that no one is quite sure if Bishop fits the NFL prototype that scouts have been searching for since Sammy Baugh first popularized the forward pass.
The 22-year-old from Willis, Texas, has that Randall Cunningham, Kordell Stewart kind of thing working for and against him. He's athletic, creative and able to turn running back at the first sign of trouble.
The thing is, everybody you talk to has the word "but" hanging at the end of the sentence. It goes something like this:
''Bishop is very athletic, but ... The guy has a great sense on the field, but ... Yeah, the kid threw for 4,401 yards and ran for another 1,314, but ...''
''Sometimes you want to say, 'but what?' But you can't,'' Bishop said after touching down on Maui last Monday afternoon. ''This is an opportunity for me to show people I can be an NFL quarterback. That's what I want to be.''
Former Hawaii recruiting coordinator Jim Cochran, now a scout for the New York Jets, believes Bishop is one of the college all-star game's most intriguing stories.
''Because you aren't quite sure how it's going to end," Cochran said. ''I think we all know that Ricky Williams is going to be a great running back and Chris McAlister is going to be an outstanding cover-corner.
''But you're never quite sure with a player like Bishop because he can do so many things. The thing you have to ask yourself is what will he do best?''
Not knowing himself has created some tension for Bishop. After yesterday's South practice, most of the questions he answered for reporters were of the short variety -- yes, no, maybe so.
''And it's not just with you guys,'' Hula Bowl chief executive officer Lenny Klompus said. ''During Wednesday's dinner for the players, he just got up and left the table.
''I went over to him to see if he was OK. He just told me he was going back to his room. I asked if there was anything I could do. And he told me no. He was just nervous because he wanted to do so well.''
You can understand his apprehension because as Bob Dylan once wrote, ''The past is close behind.''
Right behind for Bishop, who still feels the pain of the last seven weeks. First, he led Kansas State to the brink of the national championship game, only to see it disappear in a Texas tornado.
Texas A&M rallied for an improbable 36-33 overtime victory in the Big 12 Championship game. With the win, the Aggies secured a Sugar Bowl bid that matched them against former No. 1 Ohio State, while the Wildcats tumbled deep into the heart of Texas to San Antonio where they played Purdue in the Alamo Bowl.
It's not something Bishop wants to remember, but that loss to the Boilermakers still sticks in the craw of the native Texan. It was one thing to lose to Texas A&M, quite another to Purdue.
''We were so down after Texas A&M, we just couldn't come back up,'' Bishop said.
Unfortunately, those two defeats distract the 22-3 record, the 1997 Fiesta Bowl win and the breaking of a 29-game losing streak to Nebraska. It's one reason why Bishop decided to play in an all-star game.
''I want to come out and have a good time like anybody else, but this is a business,'' Bishop said. ''It's always been a business for me. I want to give the scouts something to think about until the combine. I've worked hard to get here and I plan to keep on working hard to show that I can be the kind of playmaker teams are looking for in the NFL.''