Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Beanie Bishop’s breakout season at WVU was a product of doing things his own way

MORGANTOWN — Typically, college football players enter the transfer portal for one of two reasons, to get more playing time or to make more money.

Beanie Bishop Jr. transferred to West Virginia last offseason with a different goal in mind, to get to the NFL.

“I came on a mission,” Bishop said. “Some guys leave schools to get money, to do all of those different things and I just set a goal that I want to go to the NFL. I want to go somewhere where I’ll have the opportunity to play and make plays and this was the best spot for me.”

Bishop’s professional prospects weren’t looking good following a disappointing individual season for him at Minnesota in 2022. After three solid seasons at Western Kentucky, Bishop made the jump to Power 5 football with the Golden Gophers, but he didn’t have the kind of season he wanted as his playing time and production both dropped off.

“He has three really good years and then goes to Minnesota and he played, but he was a rotational guy and he wanted a better opportunity,” WVU head coach Neal Brown explained. “So he came here and he just worked.”

Joining the Mountaineers turned out to be the perfect choice for Bishop as, given the opportunity to be a full-time starter, he blossomed into one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12 and eventually garnered consensus All-American status.

“It’s a big accomplishment,” Bishop said. “There are 130-something teams and each team has about 100 players. I don’t know how big the All-American rosters are, but just to be on those teams is the elite of the elite guys.”

Bishop is the 13th consensus All-American in WVU’s 130-year history and the first to be a product of the transfer portal.

“It’s a big accomplishment, not only for me but for the school,” Bishop said, “and for other guys being able to see that you don’t have to do it by being on social media and doing all of those things. You don’t have to be a social media guy, you can just put your head down and work.”

The Louisville, Ky. native led the country in passes defended (24), pass breakups (20) and forced incompletions (17). 

“He’s about the right things,” WVU co-defensive coordinator ShaDon Brown said. “He came here as a six-year player who had been to a stop previously that didn’t go the way it was planned…He over-achieved because of his work ethic. He didn’t worry about some of the other things that transfers worry about and he’s played himself into having an opportunity to play in the National Football League.”

The only category where Bishop wasn’t tops in the nation was interceptions, he finished with a team-high four. Bishop joked that if he had caught even just half of the balls he got his hands on, he would be taking home even more hardware this offseason.

“I wanted to be in the Jim Thorpe (best defensive back) category, wanted to be one of those finalists,” he said. “If I catch at least half of the (interceptions) that I dropped, I’d probably be sitting here with the trophy.”

Along with the All-American accolades, Bishop has also accepted an invitation to attend the annual East-West Shrine Bowl, a clear indication that he is now on the NFL’s radar.

“Everybody’s path is different,” Bishop said. “I have a few friends that are in the NFL, some guys went in three years, some guys went in four, it’s just taken me a bit longer. I don’t try to compare myself to other guys or things like that. Just being able to be myself and let my game speak shows volumes. This is what I could have been doing, but I just didn’t have the opportunity.”

Coaches say that Bishop worked hard from the very first day he arrived in Morgantown.

“When he got here he didn’t know many people, but he was always in the building either in the film room or downstair doing extra things in the weight room,” ShaDon Brown said. “You see that out of a new guy and you know he’s serious about his craft and what he wants to be.”

“It’s not just his on-field performance that’s helped us,” Neal Brown added. “His work ethic, how he practiced and how he prepared has really helped our defensive backfield. He really made a difference back there and we’re significantly better because of him.”

Bishop is one pass breakup shy of tying the WVU single-season record of 21, set by Brian King in 2003, and two away from owning it outright.

With a realistic shot at the pros in his future, people might expect Bishop to have opted out of WVU’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl appearance against North Carolina next week (Dec. 27, 5:30 p.m./ESPN). 

There was no chance of that happening, however.

“I’m a competitor,” Bishop said. “I want to be able to come back and look at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl trophy in a couple months or a couple years and I want to have helped us win that game.” 

Choosing to play in the bowl is just another way Bishop differs from those around him.

“I don’t think anything could’ve changed his mind about playing in the game because he likes playing football, he doesn’t just love what football gives him,” ShaDon Brown said. “That’s the difference with guys that opt-out, sometimes they like what football gives them, and the means to an end, as opposed to just playing football.”

And so, Bishop will play one final game in the old gold and blue, and then it’s off to the NFL. 

He may be able to deflect a couple of passes and end up with the single-season record, or maybe quarterbacks will have finally learned to stop throwing his way and he won’t.

Either way, Bishop will enjoy the final game of his one and only season as a Mountaineer just like he’s done everything else, in his own way.

“You want to have fun, but the ultimate goal is to win the game,” Bishop said. “Have fun when it’s time to have fun, but at the end of the day, it’s really a business trip. You want to bring a trophy back and we kind of want to see Coach Brown dowsed in mayonnaise.”