The book on: Bishop Sankey

Bishop Sankey's two-year rushing total of 3,309 yards at Washington is the best in school history and seventh-most in league annals.

Bishop Sankey

University of Washington Huskies
Spokane, Washington
Gonzaga Preparatory School


Humble to a fault, despite two record-breaking performances during his two-year career as the Huskies' featured ball carrier, Sankey has often heard his running style, athletic frame and low center of gravity be compared to Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. While that is high praise for any athlete to receive, Sankey continues to deflect all the attention to his teammates, claiming it "was all my blockers that made this happen."

Outstanding running skills might be the real reason for his charge through the school and Pac-12 Conference record books. In his two seasons as the featured ball carrier, Sankey totaled 3,309 yards on the ground, topping the previous two-season-best by a Washington running back (Napoleon Kaufman totaled 2,689 yards from 1993-94). His two-year total of 3,862 all-purpose yards topped the previous multiple season record of 3,677 yards by Kaufman (1,851 in 1993; 1,826 in 1994).

Sankey's rushing figures are also the seventh best two-season total by a Pac-12 (formerly the Pac-10) Conference, ranking behind Marcus Allen of Southern California (3,990 from 1980-81); Charles White of Southern California (3,855 from 1978-79); Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona (3,814; 2012-13); LaMichael James of Oregon (3,536; 2010-11); O.J. Simpson of Southern California (3,423; 1967-68) and Ricky Bell of Southern California (3,408; 1975-76).

The junior is the only non-kicker to lead Washington in scoring more than once in a career. His 37 rushing touchdowns broke the previous Washington all-time record of 34 scoring runs by Kaufman. The only other Husky to score at least 30 times on the ground was Joe Steele (32). His 37 scoring scampers topped Russell White of California (1990-92) for 17th on the Pac-12 Conference all-time record list.

After running for 16 touchdowns as a sophomore and 20 more in 2013, he joined Hugh McElhenny (12 in 1950 and 13 in 1951) and Rashaan Shehee (15 in 1995 and 10 in 1996) as the only Huskies to run for at least 10 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. His 644 rushing attempts marked the fifth time that a Husky had carried for over 600 times during his career, ranking fourth on the school all-time record chart, topped by Chris Polk (799), Kaufman (735) and Steele (676). Sankey's 616 rushing attempts combined for 2012-13 topped the old school two-year record of 553 by Chris Polk (260 in 2010; 293 in 2011).

After a stellar sophomore campaign, where Sankey rose from third on the team's depth chart to produce one of the finest seasons by a Husky tailback, it is puzzling that the national media failed to recognize his performance. The university first began playing organized football in 1889, but the speedy ball carrier would become just the 11th player in the school's 120-year football history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a campaign.

The lack of "media attention" did not bother the former Gonzaga Prep standout, who has embraced the team concept instilled by head coach Steve Sarkasian. While other Pac-12 Conference running backs, like Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, Silas Redd of Southern California and De'Anthony Thomas of Oregon continue to "garner space" in the national sports sections, none of those runners have been as important to his team's "rise from the ashes" of the bottom of the league standings chart like Sankey.

Sankey stepped into the lineup the second game of the 2012 campaign, but only after injuries sidelined the two runners listed ahead of him on the depth chart entering August camp. After a quiet starting debut vs. Louisiana State, the sophomore turned into the most important weapon the Huskies could put on the football field. He rushed for over 100 yards in seven of his next 11 games, capped off by a career-best 205-yard performance vs. Boise State in the MAACO Bowl, which established a school postseason record. He would further "torment" the Broncos when he ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns vs. Boise State in the 2013 season opener.

Sankey's 1,439 yards on the ground in 2012 rank fourth on Washington's annual record chart. The workhorse found the end zone 16 times on the ground, the third-highest total by a Husky in a campaign. In a three-game stretch (vs. Oregon State, Utah and California), the sophomore toted the ball 88 times, the most by a Washington ball carrier since Corey Dillon had 86 carries during a three-game string in 1996.

Sankey's 1,439 yards accounted for 77.74% of the team's rushing yardage total (1,851 yards). He recorded 16 of the team's 19 touchdowns on the ground (84.21%) and registered 32.99% of the points recorded by the offensive team (291) in 2012. In comparison, Ka'Deem Carey was responsible for 64.94%) of Arizona's yards rushing (1,923 of 2,961) and produced 23 of their 33 scoring runs (69.7%).

The other two heralded Pac-12 Conference tailbacks did not fare as well. De'Anthony Thomas, who will add more responsibilities as a ball carrier in 2013, managed to amass just 17.11% of Oregon's rushing yardage (701-of-4,098) and post 22.92% of their running scores (11-of-48). Silas Redd of Southern California managed to generate 46.22% of the Trojans' ground total (905-of-1,958), scoring nine of the team's 12 touchdowns on the ground.

Further highlighting Sankey's value to the Huskies' program was his responsibilities as a "table-setter" for the offense. He had key rushing attempts that saw him either score or set up 28 of the team's 38 total touchdowns, as he had receptions that set up six more of those touchdown marches (34 total). The Huskies' kicked nine field goals, with the tail-back producing carries that led to seven of those three-pointers and catches that set up the other two. Of the 291 points scored on offense by Washington, Sankey played a major role in 265 of those points (91.07%).

In Sankey's own version of "Can You Top This," he surpassed all of the marks he established as a sophomore, as the 2013 season saw the Husky finally get the recognition where it counts most — from the decision makers within the National Football League. During his junior campaign, the nation's fourth-leading rusher reached 100 rushing yards in nine of those contests, a school annual record. His 16 100-yard rushing efforts as a Husky rank third in school history, and he produced four 200-yard efforts since enrolling at the university, including three in 2013, as both tied school all-time and season records.

His school season-record 1,870 yards on the ground in 2013 marked the tenth-best statistical performance by a Pac-12 Conference performer. He would also join Chris Polk (1,415 in 2010 and 1,488 in 2011) as the only Washington running backs to record multiple seasons with at least 1,400 yards on the ground.

As a junior, Sankey not only ran for 20 of the team's thirty-five scoring scampers, but has also had key carries that led to 19 other touchdowns (team had a total of 60 touchdowns in 2013). He also recorded big gains as a ball carrier to set up 12 of the Huskies' 14 field goals. Among his 28 catches, nine have helped the team record touchdowns and two more came on drives that resulted in field goals. That means the All-American has had a hand in 48-of-60 touchdown drives and all 14 field goals produced by UW in 2013.

The well-liked Sankey has been a "model citizen" ever since he arrived on the University of Washington campus in 2011. He arrived as an unheralded recruit who had recently de-committed from Washington State University. As well as he has performed on the football field, he has also excelled academically, as his 3.8 grade point average during the recent winter semester (3.2 GPA overall) is the highest on the football team.

Unlike the other three more well-known Pac-12 Conference running backs, professional scouts are confident that Sankey does not come with the same off-field "baggage" as that trio. Ka'Deem Carey was arrested for domestic violence last December. The Wildcat also operates in an offensive system that sees him handle the ball mostly on inside zone plays, and this allows him space to cut through traffic.

Some scouts have doubted that Carey has the power to push through piles and can be contained after initial contact, as multiple defenders were needed to stop him on just 34 of his 280 non-touchdown carries (12.14%) in 2012. By comparison, Sankey had more than one defender needed to bring him down on 85 of his 273 non-scoring rushing attempts (31.14%) last season. Through nine games in the 2013 campaign, multiple defenders were required to stop the Husky on 79-of-209 non-touchdown carries (37.80%), as he spent the off-season adding strength and bulk to his frame.

Those same scouts are monitoring Silas Redd during fall camp, as the oft-injured ball carrier missed most of the Trojans' spring camp after suffering a torn meniscus in his knee in a March scrimmage that required surgery. The Penn State transfer has proven to be a liability as a receiver, pulling down just nine of the 19 passes targeted to him last year. Sankey has had no major injury issues and snared 16-of-22 targeted tosses in 2012. In 2013, he has caught 20-of-25 passes targeted to him (80.00%), 10 that were good for first downs and 10 that gained at least 10 yards.

De'Anthony Thomas might be a sensational return specialist, but there are concerns his slight frame (5:09, 178 pounds) might not be able to withstand the rigors of carrying the football often. In 27 games for the Ducks, Thomas has had at least 10 rushing attempts in a contest only five times. In comparison, Sankey toted the ball at least 20 times in 10 of his 12 starting assignments, including seven contests with at least 25 attempts in 2012, followed by registering at least 25 rushing attempts in six of the nine games he has played in as a junior.

While the national media has been slow to notice this talented athlete, professional scouts not only recognize his production, but also his strong work ethic, instilled in him by his father, Chris, an Air Force technical sergeant who raised his son on his own for much of Bishop's youth.

In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, Chris Sankey stated, "It was just me and Bishop for a long time. It was not always easy, but we got through it. And I think that's a big reason why he's really mentally tough now." Chris could be tough on his young son, that's for sure. Back in Akron, Ohio, father coached son through middle school football, and Chris taught his son to be first in every-thing. Bishop would soon turn into a youth football sensation, with even a few web sites featuring his exploits on the gridiron.

After a standout career as a running back at Akron East High School, Chris played briefly at Central State in Wilberforce, Ohio, a school that produced first round linemen Erik Williams (Dallas) and Hugh Douglas (New York Jets/Philadelphia) before briefly shutting down the program in the early 1990s. He was 20 when Bishop was born.

Bishop has remained in touch with his mother, Julie Becker, who lives in Cleveland. She has become the team's "good luck charm," as in the two games that she was present in the stands watching her one, he has rushed for over 200 yards in each contest. Chris remarried eight years ago and the family moved from Akron to Spokane when the tailback was age 14. Chris is presently stationed at Fort MacArthur Air Force Base in San Pedro, California, and while he is proud of his son's football success, it is his son's performance away from the game that has the father even more prouder.

Chris always stressed education first with his son. When Bishop started slacking on his homework late in fifth grade, Chris took away the television and the PlayStation, sending son to his room until schoolwork was done. "He got the message early on," Chris Sankey said. Chris recalls getting a call from his excited son a couple years ago, not long after Bishop arrived at UW. "I got it!" he told his dad. The excitement, Chris quickly learned, had nothing to do with football; no, his son was thrilled about his success in the classroom.

Bishop's on-field success has mirrored what he's doing academically at the university. As he pursues a communications degree, the tailback has also expressed strong interest in attending law school. "I'm definitely proud," Chris Sankey said.

After moving to the Spokane area at age 14, Sankey was a standout ball carrier who often took direct snaps out of the "wildcat" formation for Gonzaga Preparatory School grid coach Dave McKenna. There was instant chemistry between the two, as the coach noticed that he had a player that was not only highly talented on the field, but a quiet, humble person who did not mind hiding from the "limelight."

Even as a youngster, any time that he was approached by a scribe after a stellar performance on the field, Sankey would prefer to deflect credit to his offensive line, to talk about the team. To college recruiters, he was "too good to be true." Some recruiters who came around Gonzaga Prep weren't so sure.

"It's all true," said McKenna, who coached Sankey for four seasons. "That's who he is. He's quiet, humble. The hardest-working kid I've ever been around. He has all that God-given talent, but he doesn't flaunt it. He's just a joy to be around." McKenna said many questioned whether Bishop had the "breakaway speed" that would translate at the college level. "I tried to tell them," McKenna said. "I know (Bishop's 2012 season) surprised a lot of other people, but it didn't surprise me one bit."

As a sophomore at Gonzaga Prep, the Bullpups compiled an 8-2 record in 2008. That season, Sankey rushed for 526 yards while splitting time in the backfield, averaging 10.5 yards per carry. He earned All-Greater Spokane League first-team and All-State Class 4A honorable mention as a junior, amassing 2,011 yards with 17 rushing touchdowns in nine contests. He opened the season with four 200-yard rushing performances and by midseason, he had shattered the previous school record of 1,299 yards on the ground by Tim Lappano in 1974.

Sankey's senior campaign saw the Prep Star All-American establish league and district season and career rushing records. He totaled 2,518 yards with 33 touchdowns on 281 carries (8.96 ypc), becoming the only player in district annals to produce a pair of "top ten" rushing seasons on the annual record chart. That season would see him gain 359 yards vs. Mead, the third-highest game total in GSL annals.

Sankey would close out his career as the state and league record-holder with 4,355 yards rushing. His 198 points scored set another season mark and his career total of 306 points rank third. At the U.S. Army National Combine, attended by over 500 players in January, 2010, he recorded a Pro Agility shuttle time of 3.90, the second-best at the event. His 4.4 clocking in the 40-yard dash was also the best for any player in attendance.

Sankey's quickness was further utilized by the Gonzaga Prep track team, where he performed as a sprinter and as a member of the relay teams, in addition to performing as a jumper. As a sophomore, he recorded season-bests of 11.40 in the 100 meters (Jesuit Twilight Outdoor Relays), along with a 21'-1" long jump and a 40'-11.25" triple jump in Greater Spokane League competition. He also ran a leg on the Bullpups' 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams.

The following season, Sankey again starred for the school's outdoor track team. He a season-best 11.28 seconds in the 100 meters at the GSL District Meet, and 23.21 in the 200 meters at the regionals, followed by a 400-meter clocking of 54.84. As a senior, he boasted season-best times of 11.54 in the 100 meters, 23.94 in the 200 and 55.14 in the 400. He also ran a leg on the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams that placed second in both events at the Ray Cockrum Relays.

Sankey originally agreed to attended Washington State University after his prep career ended, but had a change of heart, as he would de-commit and enroll at the University of Washington instead. The Inland Northwest Youth Awards Male Athlete of the Year and Class 4A All-State selection at Gonzaga Prep in 2010, he would appear in 12 games as a reserve tailback for the Huskies in 2011.

The consummate team player was in a "new role" as a support performer for the Huskies as a true freshman. Coming off a 2,518-yard rushing season as a senior in high school, he was afforded just 28 carries at Washington in 2011, but made the most of his limited chances to touch the football. He gained 187 yards, an average of 6.68 yards per attempt. He scored just once, but he had big carries that set up eight touchdown drives and key receptions that resulted in two more scoring marches for the Huskies.

Nine of Sankey's carries resulted in first downs, with eight of those totes gaining at least 10 yards. He added six receptions and in the Alamo Bowl's wild 67-56 loss to Baylor, he also handled kickoff return duties. Four of his six runbacks were followed by Washington touchdown drives.

With Carlos Polk having left for the National Football League, the Huskies opened the 2012 campaign with Sankey in a reserve role. When junior Jesse Callier was injured in UW's first game vs. San Diego State, the sophomore stepped into the starting lineup the next week and never relinquished his role with the first unit. His 1,439 yards on 289 carries (4.98 ypc) both rank third on the school season-record chart. His 16 touchdown runs are surpassed by only Corey Dillon's 24 scores (1996) on the UW annual record list.

Sankey also averaged 110.69 yards per game on the ground, the 19th-best average in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision ranks in 2012. He also proved to be a very effective "safety valve" for quarterback Keith Price, catching 16 of the 22 passes targeted to him, good for 249 yards. He led the team in scoring with 96 points and registered 1,688 all-purpose yards, the seventh-best figure by a Husky in a season.

Sankey entered the 2013 season as one of Washington's two most "dangerous weapons," as the preseason All-American was joined on that list by fellow junior, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. They are part of an offensive unit that features nine returning starters, making the Huskies one of those "sleeper" teams that definitely has the talent to challenge for a berth in the 2014 Rose Bowl.

Named one of the team's offensive captains, Sankey rewarded his teammates for that honor when he exploded for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in the 2013 season opener vs. Boise State. He also came up with other big carries that set up two more touchdown drives, along with a big reception that led to a UW field goal. In two meetings vs. Boise State, he torched the Broncos for 366 yards and three touchdowns on 55 attempts, adding seven catches for 86 yards and a total of 452 all-purpose yards.

With his mother, aunts and uncles in the stands at Chicago's Soldier Field, they saw Sankey explode for a career-best 208 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 35 carries vs. Illinois. He would establish school career (four) and season (three) records when he again reached the 200-yard rushing level in the 2013 Apple Cup vs. Washington State. He also proved to be a highly capable blocker, registering seventy-six knockdowns and 10 touchdown-resulting blocks as a junior.


Sankey has appeared in 38 games for the Washington Huskies, starting his last 25 contests…Carried 644 times for 3,496 yards (5.43 ypc) and 37 touchdowns, adding 567 yards and one score on 67 receptions (8.46 ypc), 134 yards on seven kickoff returns (19.14 avg), two solo tackles, 228 points and 4,197 all-purpose yards (110.45 ypg).

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