By Bontã Hill
With the publicity the National Football League garners, the feel good stories that transpire over the course of a season often gets overshadowed by the negativity of the league.
The Desmond Bishop’s of the world are mere afterthoughts.
That’s the same Desmond Bishop who helped lead City College to a National Championship and helped the Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday.
Bishop had eight tackles, including three for losses, and a game-changing fumble recovery that halted the Pittsburgh Steelers’ potential scoring drive and shifted all the game’s momentum back into his team’s favor.
For Bishop, 26, to even be on the field in that situation is a story in itself. His path from Fairfield High School to Super Bowl champion has been a tough, frustrating, yet remarkable journey.
“It’s definitely been a long journey and the first thing that comes to mind is that I had doubts and could have easily just given up,” Bishop said. “My support team and my family just stayed behind me and stayed pushing me. I just kept preparing and kept trying to get better while waiting in the wings for my opportunity, so when it finally came I took advantage of it. I’m grateful for it.”
Before setting foot at City College, Bishop had his scholarship reneged by the University of Nevada, Reno, because they wanted him to wait a semester to enroll. Unwilling to wait, Bishop followed in his father’s footsteps and enrolled at City College.
“Initially I was disappointed because Nevada took away my scholarship right before the semester, but I knew about coach George Rush and the whole tradition there from when my father played,” Bishop said. “Living in San Francisco, being expensive and not having a lot of money, not having the benefits of being at a big college, it was a grind.”
Bishop won defensive conference player of the year two seasons in a row, made the Junior College All-American team, and helped lead the Rams to the 2003 National Championship. By the end of his two years at City College, he had scholarship offers from all over the country.
In the 2004 season for the Rams, Bishop was named the Northern California Conference Defensive Most Valuable Player and was a First-team JC Gridwire All-American.
“He always had great instincts and he worked hard, was a great guy with great leadership qualities,” Rush said. “He was track fast, but was a really a tough kid, and always got his best effort.”
After City College Bishop decided to stay local and attend Cal-Berkeley where he joined fellow Rams teammates Joe Ayoob and LaVelle Hawkins.
Bishop’s senior season as a Bear went down as one of the best-ever for a Cal linebacker. He was named to first team Pac-10 and led the conference in tackles.
Cashing in on his opportunity at Cal, Bishop established himself as one of the best linebackers in the Pac-10 conference, and had hopes of becoming one of the first linebackers taken in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Instead, Bishop was the 192nd player taken off the draft board, a low sixth-round pick. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that he was picked by Green Bay, an industrious city far from home.
“To be drafted sixth-round was kind of a slap in the face; to go from being the guy to just being a regular guy definitely took a toll on my ego,” Bishop said chuckling. “It was different, definitely a culture shock, but the people there are really cool. They eat, sleep, and drink Packer football.”
The first two seasons of his professional career didn’t go as planned. Bishop was relegated to special teams duty, spending a lot of time on the sideline.
But in the NFL you’re always only one play away from being thrown into the fire, and when Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending injury, Bishop was thrust into a starting role. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity and finished second on the team with 103 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception this season.
For Bishop’s hard work the Packers rewarded him last month with a four-year, $19 million contract extension.
“The time I had to put into it, the hard work, you appreciate it that much more. It all happened so fast this year,” a humbled Bishop said. “I’m still in the moment right now living out my dream.”
Of all the stops on the remarkable road that started during his pop-warner football days through Fairfield High School and all the way to being the starting middle linebacker on a Super Bowl-winning team, Bishop points to the experience at City College that shaped the rest of his life.
“Being at the junior college level, you’re at that pivotal point. It’s either you keep going forward or just give up football and go into a different career,” Bishop said. “For the players at City now, I know it’s hard right now, but stay focused on school work first and continue to grow on the field. Never give up and chase your dreams relentlessly.”
“Appreciate the practices, appreciate coach Rush because you’ll never play for another coach like him,” Bishop added. “If I can do it, anybody can do it.”