Oct. 10, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. -
The safety is often times the quarterback of the defense, ensuring that the rest of the defense is properly aligned prior to the snap, while doing everything in his power to jump an opposing receiver’s route, break up a pass or cut down a ball carrier. Senior Brandan Bishop takes on many of those roles on a game-to-game basis.
Bishop led the Wolfpack with four interceptions as a sophomore in 2010, and picked-off five more passes as a junior in 2011, which ranked second on the team. Bishop also had three fumble recoveries last season, which was tied for the team lead.
“I like to stay aggressive,” Bishop stated. “I’m always looking for a big play. I try to be solid as far as our defense goes and stay within our scheme. When we get a chance to make a big play, I like to capitalize on a good opportunity.”
The senior has been a staple of the NC State secondary for much of the past four seasons. What many don’t know is that he was converted to linebacker just before his freshman year began.
“They told me I was going to be a linebacker, so as a freshman, you do what you’re told and what’s best for the team,” Bishop said. “Coach [O’Brien] called me into his office a couple days before our fall camp started, and he said, ‘Brandan, we need you to play SAM ‘backer.’ I said, ‘Okay, sure Coach.’ I think the coaches thought I was going to grow into a bigger guy than I was, but I haven’t gotten any bigger since I’ve been here. In high school I was training a lot, so I was already filled-out.”
Bishop was not a linebacker for long however, as he was reverted back to safety almost as quickly as he was told he would change positions in the first place.
“After the first game we played at South Carolina, they decided to take my redshirt off, and I was in the mix, and by the third game, I was starting at safety,” Bishop said. “It was a big relief for me to go back to safety, as opposed to sticking at linebacker where I was going to do it for the team, but I wasn’t too excited about it.”
Moving back to his favorite position was easy because safety was where Bishop was most comfortable and most experienced.
“I had been playing safety for a long time, and I knew I was going to be undersized playing in the box like that, and I thought I had the ability to play safety,” Bishop said. “I was really, really happy that they moved me back.”
Some players embrace change, and Bishop would have had no problem making a position change to help the team, but his joy for playing the safety position has never changed. He sees playing as the last line of defense as a chance to leave his stamp on a game.
“I think it’s the most fun position on the field because you get to see a lot of stuff happen,” Bishop said. “You get to use your eyes and instincts, and then if you use your eyes and you play with vision, you’re going to have an opportunity to make big plays. There’s no greater feeling than picking off a quarterback or coming up with a big play to change the momentum of a game.”
Many young defensive backs model their games after professional players, and Bishop is no different. The only thing that may be different is that he doesn’t idolize the NFL’s most reputable safeties such as Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens.
“I like Eric Weddle of the San Diego Chargers because he makes a lot of plays,” Bishop said. “He’s someone that I admire. He does it all. He can come up in run-support, and he can come up and hit you. He’s got great cover skills as well.”
The Boca Raton, Fla., native was lightly recruited out of high school, but schools like Stanford, Pittsburgh and West Virginia were schools interested in him. Surprisingly, none of the top Division I schools in his home state made offers, but when NC State came calling, he knew he had to make a visit.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of offers coming out of high school,” Bishop said. “I came up here on my visit and I liked it a lot. I’ve got some family in the area and my parents can get up to the games pretty easily. It was a good fit. I knew I could play early and it ended up working out for me.”
NC State’s location also made the choice easier because one of his biggest fans would be close enough to come see him play: his father.
“He hasn’t missed a game since I started my freshman year. He plans his flights way in advance and he won’t miss a game whether it’s home or away.”
Not all players are fortunate enough to have their loved ones attend their college games, but those like Bishop who are as lucky, enjoy the feeling that their parents are watching closely, just like they did during their childhood.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bishop said of his father’s commitment to attending every game. “The support that he gives me is hard to put into words. I find him every game, no matter if it’s home or away.
“If it’s a home game I can find him real easily because he sits in the same spot every week. If it’s an away game I just look for the big guy in the red #30 jersey. For a while, he was the only one in the stadium wearing #30 jersey, but now I think they make them. But, he’s the only one that has a red one, so it’s easy to spot him. It’s comforting just knowing he’s there watching me.”
Not only does Bishop spot his father, he sometimes communicates with him when he’s on the field.
“During the game, sometimes I’ll look to him and he’ll give me hand motions or something to tell me to get it going or pick it up. He coached me when I was younger in all sorts of sports. I don’t really have to hear him to know what he’s trying to tell me.”
Even if it’s his senior year, Bishop still believes he and the Wolfpack have some unfinished business. There are some things he has yet to achieve, but many of those goals are well within reach for the 2012 season.
“I want to help lay a foundation for this program, and I really want to make this an elite program,” said Bishop. “I feel like we’re getting closer. We should have won double-digit [games] my sophomore year, and then we won eight last year, and I feel like this year is going to be a breakthrough year for us. I hope to win an ACC Championship. I hope to leave a legacy that’s trending up.”