By Joel Poiley
Draftniks will recall that Bishop Sankey was the first running back chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft, selected as the 54th player overall by Tennessee after an outstanding three-year career at the University of Washington. He was drafted ahead of Jeremy Hill, Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman, among others.
What followed has been a five-year journey, one with peaks and valleys.
The window appeared closed when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the opening preseason game with Minnesota in 2017. But the advent of The Alliance of American Football re-opened the door. San-key signed with San Diego’s newest pro team in early September.
The hard-charging Sankey provided memorable moments for fans during his time at Washington, where he rushed for 3,496 yards and 37 touchdowns in three seasons. A 200-yard game against Washington State in the Apple Cup in 2013 broke Corey Dillon’s 1996 school record of 1,695 yards in a season.
The same play in which he passed Dillon, on a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, he also broke Napoleon Kaufman’s school rushing touchdowns record with his 35th. He finished the season with 1,870 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
Sankey was drafted after his junior year by Tennessee when the Titans sought a replacement for Chris Johnson, who had been released the prior month and signed with the Jets.
Then-Titans scout Marv Sunderland compared Sankey to former Giants star running back Tiki Barber.
“He can run inside, he can get outside, he runs through guys and he can break the long runs,” Sunderland said after the Draft. “He has great hands out of the backfield, and he’s a good blocker. He is a well-rounded back.”
Those attributes still apply to Sankey, a sturdy 5-feet-10, 209-pounds. His story just shows how tough it is to carve out a long career at running back, no matter how high you’re drafted.
He proved to be a more than useful back during two seasons in Tennessee, rushing for 762 yards and averaging 3.8 yards per carry. However, he was cut late in training camp in 2016 when the Titans traded for DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry in the second round, bumping Sankey down the depth chart. Practice squad stops followed with New England, Kansas City and Minnesota, then the ACL injury last season.
The opportunity to play with The Fleet couldn’t have come along at a better time for the still hungry RB.
“One of the quotes I’ve always lived by is: ‘The race doesn’t go to the swiftest or fastest, but to the one who keeps running,’ ” Sankey said in an interview in The Spokesman-Review in Spokane in 2015. “A quote we had in the training room at Washington was, ‘Durability is more important than ability.’ ”
Always goal-driven, Sankey used his off-seasons to complete his degree requirements last June. One goal down, another is still possible, thanks to The Alliance.