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 spirals.
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.