Livonia’s top dog!
LIVONIA—Few athletes in Livingston County can do what Derek Bishopp did for the Livonia Bulldogs last season.
“He had an incredible year,” said head football coach Steve Girolmo. “I think if he could have driven the bus, he would have done that, too.”
Bishopp’s junior year ended with him leading the Bulldogs in rushing, receiving and returning in both yards and touchdowns. He also led the team in tackling as a linebacker and strong safety.
“He had a game that was ridiculous in the quarterfinal against Geneva,” said Girolmo. “He had 370-something yards of offense. He had a touchdown catch and five or six touchdown rushes. It was crazy. They couldn’t stop him.”
Talk about the complete package.
“Everything is based on his work ethic,” Girolmo said. “It’s his ability to say, ‘This is me. I go 110 percent every minute that I am here.’”
Bishopp’s hard work is proven by his excellence in not just one sport, but three. Named team captain as a defenseman of the Geneseo-Livonia Lakers hockey team, and as a member of the All-League 1st Team Midfield in lacrosse, while scoring 42 goals in the process, has made Bishopp one of the most talented athletes in the county.
But it’s his attitude towards the game of football, his determination to help the team no matter what, that makes him such a likable figure.
“I’ll block, I don’t care,” Bishopp said.
In the summer, he’s been taking some reps at quarterback as Coach Girolmo experiments with Bishopp’s strengths in an option offense.
“It is weird throwing pitches to Josh (Wester) because that used to be me,” said Bishopp. “But, I am perfectly okay with doing it and giving anyone the chance to run.”
Right now, no one really knows who will be the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback just yet. As Girolmo will say, it’s all dependent on who gives the team the best chance to win.
“We are going to do the best we can as coaches to find the right positions for everyone to make the team better,” Girolmo pointed out. “If we are better with (Bishopp) as quarterback, then we will do that.”
Whatever his role may be, Girolmo knows that Bishopp is ready to take it on.
“It’s always about team with Derek,” he said. “That is rare this day and age. It’s rare for someone to say, ‘I will do whatever you want for the sake of the team.’ It’s the way he thinks: team, team, team.”
Bishopp is quick to credit his teammates for his breakout season last fall. Specifically, there is one group of guys who he knows deserve a shout out for all their hard work.
“The offensive linemen are great,” said Bishopp. “They are all smart guys and dedicated footballers. They work the hardest. As quarterback, they have your back. They are your main men.”
Playing quarterback, a position he describes as a “pretty cool gig,” would mean a change in a relationship with his line. But, he’s confident that everyone would adapt should that change occur.
“We have to be focused,” Bishopp said. “You have to know what you have to do. Let the coaches coach and hear what they have to say. Coach G has so much knowledge and so much passion for the game. Let him talk, he has a lot to tell you.”
Bishopp, too, doesn’t know yet where on the field he’ll be playing come September, but he’s getting prepared for whatever call gets.
“Coach is showing me videos of high schools running the option against other high schools. He’s got it down,” said Bishopp. “It’s speed on speed.”
Girolmo also hinted at an option-based offense, but like Bishopp, was not ready to commit to it one way or another.
“If Derek goes back there, then it would be smart of me to keep the ball in his hands,” said Girolmo. “Not every play, certainly, but it would be smart of me to adjust plays and formations to keep the ball in his hands. Whether it’s a shotgun-Tebow offense or our offense adapted to him, it would be smart of me to do that. Our goal is not to change, our goal is to be successful.”
With Bishopp still a Bulldog, finding success in some fashion shouldn’t be much of a problem. The bottom line on him is that he is as great of a teammate and off-the-field personality as he is stats.
“The most important thing that I could tell you about Derek is that you know he’s a great athlete, but there are athletes all over the world who don’t live up to their potential,” Girolmo said. “They don’t work hard enough or they don’t have the right mental attitude or passion. For Derek, he’s a good person, a trustworthy, wholesome person, who has been raised really well by his folks. He’s constantly practicing or playing. His personality is such that he is focused, he’s very dedicated to each sport he plays and he gives a maximum effort. His motor never stops running.”
Sounds like a player any coach would want on their team.
Another reason Livonia is expected to have a big year has nothing to do with anything they gained, but instead, what has left.
The Hornell Red Raiders, a school that has consistently dominated Class B football, has been sent down to Class C, meaning the top school is out of the running for the sectional title that Girolmo and Bishopp seek.
“In the greater scheme of things, having Hornell no longer in Class B does give our youngsters the idea that if you do well and get there, we do have a better chance to be a sectional champion,” said Girolmo. “But, and I want to emphasize this, we are not talking about it. We need to focus on winning our first football game.”
Bishopp certainly agreed.
“(Hornell) is a team we want to beat,” said Bishopp. “(Them being gone) opens everything up, but it also pushes everyone harder. Everyone will be just as good next year.”
“If we enter our first practice talking about the final, we will not get there,” added Girolmo. “We’re not good enough to overlook any opponent.”
Bishopp is using many different mediums to hopefully find success that his coaches are craving for next season. He just recently attended a US-U19 football camp in Austin, Texas.
“There were kids from 30 different states and it was awesome to play against top-notch competition,” said Bishopp. “There are good players everywhere, so you always had to push yourself, even if you couldn’t see other people. You had to lift by yourself.”
He’s also keeping busy by playing in summer lacrosse leagues. Working out the past few months has put in him in great physical shape and “pumped” for football.
“Everyone is excited to start,” Bishopp said. “We are ready to get rolling. We are top dogs now.”