tampabay.com

Storm faces a rare run and gun threat

By FRANK PASTOR
Published March 6, 2005


TAMPA - Tim Marcum has seen a ghost.

As he viewed videotape earlier this week in preparation for today's game against Grand Rapids, the Storm coach was sure he saw Major Harris dart across his television screen.

The former West Virginia quarterback hadn't played in the Arena League in more than a decade. But there was no mistaking the way the player on the screen eluded pass rushers, sidestepped linebackers and outran defensive backs.

Only, it wasn't Harris that Marcum had seen. It was Rampage quarterback Michael Bishop.

"I'm telling you, Major Harris is back and well in Arena football," Marcum said. "The only thing is, he can throw better than Major Harris."

Bishop, 28, might possess the best blend of running and passing ability the Arena League has seen. Blessed with smarts, athleticism, arm strength, accuracy and leg speed, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound second-year player has been called "the Michael Vick of Arena football."

"I'm a little bigger than he is," Bishop said. "But we both do the same things."

In only his third game, Bishop became the first player in the Arena League's 19-year history to rush for 100 yards. He needed just six carries during a 72-56 loss Feb. 5 at Colorado to break the record of 95 yards that Harris set in 1991.

Proving he is more than a one-trick pony, Bishop threw for 13 touchdowns the next two weeks, including eight in a 73-61 loss to Austin on Feb. 19.

In three games, he has completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 766 yards and 17 touchdowns with two interceptions. His 199 rushing yards lead the league.

Now that he's got everyone's attention, Bishop is out to prove that a running quarterback can win in the Arena League.

"If you have a good defense and good special teams and have a quarterback that can run, that adds more to your offense," he said.

Bishop faces his biggest test against the Storm.

When he coached in Detroit from 1988-91, Marcum had little trouble with Harris, who played for Columbus and Cleveland. Mobile quarterbacks Joe Hamilton of Orlando and Leon Murray of Nashville (formerly of Georgia) haven't fared much better against Tampa Bay in recent seasons. Only Connell Maynor, who won ArenaBowls with Orlando in 1998 and 2000, has had real success against Marcum-coached teams.

"They present every problem for (Bishop), because Marcum is one of the teachers of this game," Grand Rapids coach Sparky McEwen said. "His guys, you're never going to do anything to them that they've never seen. They've got speed, No. 1. They've got strength. They've got linemen who are very athletic, so all of those types of things present a problem for Michael."

Bishop enters each game with four or five running plays designed specifically for him. Of his carries against Colorado, five were called in the huddle.

"Probably, if we schemed him to run the ball more, he would have a lot more yards, but we don't do that from the standpoint that this game is still built for passers," McEwen said. "The nice thing about it is, he's a tremendous passer. We (run) to keep teams honest. Bishop torched his share of defenders while setting records for rushing (23) and total touchdowns (59) at Kansas State in '97 and '98. Runnerup to Ricky Williams for the '98 Heisman Trophy, Bishop was a seventh-round draft choice of the New England Patriots in '99.

He played in eight games in 2000, completing 3 of 9 passes for 80 yards, but couldn't stick with the team. He spent the 2002-04 seasons with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

He watched from afar as the Patriots celebrated Super Bowl championships three of the past four years.

"There's a purpose for everything," he said. "I'm trying to figure out, "What's my purpose?' As long as I keep doing what I'm doing, one day everything is going to come together and I'm going to be back in my spotlight doing what I do best."