Senior Connor Bishop is a captain and three-year starter for an FBS team that has won two national championships. A versatile center and guard, Archbishop Wood’s Bishop helped his team rank second in the country in rushing over the last two seasons.
Bishop was put on the Outland Trophy Watch List in June; the award is given to the best offensive lineman in college football. Nine days prior, noted college football pundit Phil Steele named Bishop to his preseason Independent team.
That resume would have any other player preparing for the draft combine. Yet Bishop’s future is far more NCOs than RPOs. MREs instead of NFL.
“Our branching process is a process of interviews and talent tests, kind of like a job application,” said Army’s Bishop, who will learn his graduation assignment on Dec. 1. “Somewhere out there an algorithm has solved what I have, but my preference is to go into the Infantry.”
Bishop’s great-grandfather fought in World War I. While there are no veterans in his immediate family, “My Dad, who has always been a big influence on me, had an offer to West Point when he was playing ball. He did not end up going,” Bishop shared, “and I think he always wondered what that was like. I grew up in a family where we respected the military and service.
“To be able to serve and go to a place where I could better myself was a huge factor. I was looking at that at whatever school I went to,” Bishop continued. “Playing football on a big time stage was also a huge factor. Army was the complete package.”
An Army (4-6) lineman knows that he will run block ... and run block ... and run block. The Black Knights at press time ranked second in FBS in rushing yards per game. Their triple option and commitment to the ground game are as synonymous with the program as gray-clad cadets.
“Playing offensive line at Army is super fun,” Bishop explained. “You really can’t find another school – maybe the other academies – where you have as much impact on the field as you do at Army. You can really dictate how games can go. That’s a huge responsibility and a big thing in which we take pride.”
Bishop is an adept lineman, but being a good football player doesn’t guarantee that a player will be a good leader. It was an enormous accolade when Bishop’s teammates, at the school arguably more committed to leadership than any other in the world, voted him to be a co-captain.
“I’ve developed as a leader in so many ways and learned so many lessons,” Bishop reflected. “Learning about leadership in the classroom but more importantly practicing it and observing it from other people. It’s a huge honor to be a captain here at West Point and to have your teammates give you that responsibility. It’s a humbling experience to be able to serve.
“The biggest lesson I think that I’ve learned being in leadership is it is about serving others,” Bishop continued. “It’s knowing your people and doing what you can to help better develop them all the while reaching toward a common goal.”
Army and Bishop will have a chance to cement their season on Dec. 10 in their nationally televised 122nd meeting with eternal nemesis Navy. Whatever happens on that night, Bishop will leave The Point with some extraordinary memories.
Army posted consecutive nine-win seasons in 2020 and 2021. The Black Knights hoisted the 2020 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy after knocking off both Navy and Air Force. Army ended its 2021 campaign by kicking a game-winning field goal to beat SEC’s Missouri 24-22 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
“The 2020 season was obviously difficult for everybody and being able to cap that off the way we did was great,” Bishop recalled. “We played Navy at Michie Stadium because of the coronavirus. That hadn’t happened in decades. The very next week, we played Air Force at home again. Winning that on a fourth-and-1 fullback dive was pretty awesome.
“With the Armed Forces Bowl, we had lost to Navy the week before but we were able to come back and put together a one-minute drive at the end,” Bishop continued. “We’re not known for our one-minute offense but we work on it every day at practice. Our quarterback had been through multiple injuries. He was a senior who led us down the field.”
Bishop will spend Thanksgiving week preparing for Saturday’s game against UMass. Next Thanksgiving, Bishop will be who knows where. He could be closer to Holland in the Netherlands than his hometown of Holland, Pa.
As we sit down to our dinners, and likely watch football on Thursday, may we give thanks for Bishop and all of his comrades-in-arms in the military: eating their Thanksgiving meal far from home in no one’s idea of a decent dining room so that we can enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.