Two Sports, Two Goals
By Brian Price
Once a beacon for men's track and field, Oregon State was especially strong in the high jump. Olympian Dick Fosberry, the inventor of the "Fosberry Flop" went to OSU, as did four-time All-American and 1972 high jump national champion, Tom Woods.
Due to budget cuts, the program folded in 1988.
But 23 years later, the program is thriving once again, thanks in large part to junior high jumper and football player Jordan Bishop.
Bishop, a West Salem, Ore., native, was heavily recruited by both Oregon State and Oregon. However, the Ducks wanted Bishop to focus on track first and sit out his first year of football.
"I wanted to play football right away," says Bishop. "And Oregon State offered me a chance to do that."
The offer included a dual guarantee from Mike Riley and Kelly Sullivan, head coaches of football and track and field, respectively, that Bishop, as well as six other blue chip football recruits with track backgrounds, would be able to pursue both sports at OSU.
But there was a slight problem. As of 2009, when Bishop enrolled, there was still no men's track program to speak of. Bishop, already committed to playing Division-I football, spearheaded the effort to get men's track and field back on the OSU campus.
"I was probably in Coach Kelly's office three times a week begging him to get a track team going," says Bishop.
In response, Kelly began sending off solicitation letters to alumni and former OSU runners with promises that the money would nurture a crop of elite runners and jumpers capable of competing on a national level.
And in 2010, OSU established a men's program. Fittingly, Bishop was tapped as a keynote speaker during a groundbreaking ceremony this past summer for the university's new track facility.
According to Kelly, "[A central reason why] men's track and field has been making a comeback here at OSU is because of Jordan Bishop. He came here with a passion and desire to keep competing in track and field and fortunately we have been able to do so."
The support of former OSU track athletes is especially meaningful.
"[Alums] are looking forward to seeing Oregon State track get back on the map and we're just as excited to help put it there," says Bishop.
After last year's football season, Bishop prepared for the outdoor championship season. According to Kelly, Bishop "had only two or three practices prior to the Pac-10 Championship meet, when he jumped high enough to score and qualify for the NCAA Regional."
To advance, Bishop had to face fellow OSU wide receiver Obum Gwacham in a jump-off for the final spot in nationals. Bishop prevailed and described the experience as "bittersweet."
Bishop entered nationals seeded last, but made no technical adjustments in his form or technique.
"I had been holding myself back mentally," he admits. He went on to set a personal record with a jump of 7-foot-1-and-three-quarters.
"In my mind, I'm thinking I have a shot to become an All-American today, so I put all the [low rankings] behind me and focused on nothing else but me and the bar," he says.
The jump earned him ninth place and a spot as an All-American against competitors who focus on track year round.
Kelly appreciates how rare an athlete like Bishop is.
"If he stays healthy, he can play at the next level in football. And in the end, that is the goal no matter what sport you do. Be it football or track and field. Play in the NFL or make an Olympic team, both are things he has the potential to do," Kelly says.
As a receiver, Bishop is in the mold of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson.
"They have amazing speed, but aren't afraid to go across the middle and get the ball," Bishop says. "Their quarterbacks know they can toss the ball up and they'll be there to come down with it. I want [quarterback Sean Mannion] to feel the same way about me."
Currently, Bishop is the second leading receiver on the team with 296 total yards receiving through five games and is well on his way to pass his season total of 353 yards from last year.
In addition to raising the funds for a full track and field team and leading the Beavers on the gridiron, Bishop is hungry for more.
"I want to become an All-American in two sports: football and track. I had that goal in mind when I first came to college," he says.
With his coaches behind him and his impressive performances to date, his goals are looking realistic.
The football Beavers host BYU on Saturday, and the indoor track and field season begins this December.