Up Close: Bryon Bishop, Part II

North Carolina 2004 signee Bryon Bishop had to make two difficult sacrifices during his senior year in order to fulfill his dream of graduating high school and playing Division I college football. He had to carry an incredible academic workload in the classroom and move from his preferred position on the playing field.

"Basically, that's what I was looking for -- Division I school to give me a full ride," Bishop said. "I worked hard to qualify."

Bishop had to take eight core classes his senior year -- a full load to say the least. While a lot of seniors were getting "early release" and finishing at lunch time or loading up there schedules with electives like weightlifting, Bishop worked hard to get his school work done, and then lifted after school.

After losing scholarship offers to South Carolina and Clemson due partly to indecision on his part and academic qualification concerns, Bishop did manage to complete his coursework and score well enough on his SAT to qualify at UNC.

In April, the Tar Heel coaches invited Bishop to Chapel Hill and nearly offered him on the spot.

"I told them how interested I was in them," Bishop said. "They responded to me well, and I responded to them well."

Bishop comes from a powerhouse program. From 1989 to 2003, Union had a phenomenal run, winning state titles in 1990, 1995, 1999, 2000 and 2002. The Yellow Jackets made the playoffs each of those 15 consecutive seasons, and only four times during that span did they fail to advance to the Upper State title game -- the Final Four.

Union assistant coach Charlie Jenkins describes Bishop as a "late bloomer," they had to had to beg him to come out and play in middle school.

"Bishop was unsure of himself," Jenkins said. "But, when he did finally play as a tenth grader, we were happily surprised."

Bishop had starred on the defensive line as a junior, but three games into his final season, now retired head coach Mike Anthony asked him to move to offensive tackle -- the position it appears he will play at Carolina, at least at the beginning.

"He was good on the defensive line, but we felt very strong there going into his senior year," Jenkins said. "The most impressive thing that Bryon did at UHS was when he took one for the team by moving to o-line. We needed him there and he wanted the team to win. He didn't complain, and he got pretty daggum good before we were through."

However, according to Bishop, the UNC coaches are reserving final judgment until they can get another look at tape from Bishop's junior year.

"I'm coming up there as an offensive tackle, but [Coach Brad Lawing] is looking at some film of me again on defense," Bishop said.

"They say I might play defense. I want to play defense. But I started getting used to playing offense, and I started liking it."

Either way, Bishop said he will play wherever he can best help the Tar Heels, just like he did last season for the Yellow Jackets.

"We are proud of him," Jenkins said. "With his athletic ability and brains, he can do what ever he wants to do in football. He has an NFL body. He is still "green" in football, but is willing to be coached.

"If he can get over the country comes to town thing, then he will be a prize for UNC."

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