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Football: How Brandon Bishop went from Nick Saban at Alabama to Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Sept. 30, 2021

Brandon Bishop redshirted as an walk-on at Alabama in 2018, then played in the Crimson Tide’s 2019 spring game.

Rather than sit and watch SEC games for who knows how long, however, the nickel back from Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, transferred. He walked on at UL, where former Alabama receivers coach Billy Napier is the coach.

After playing 11 games mostly on special teams for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2019, Bishop was put on scholarship during preseason practice in 2020 and appeared headed for a high-profile role playing the Star position.

“He was one of the best players on our team,” Napier said.

Then Bishop’s world came crashing down.

A few days after getting the scholarship, he broke his leg during the final scrimmage of preseason camp: quite a setback for the son of former LSU and NFL tight end Harold Bishop.

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“I was expected to have a big role,” Bishop said, “and I was devastated after that.

“It was a tough year last year going through that. … But I’m blessed to be in this position now.”

Bishop getting it done for UL

Bishop is playing on his surgically-repaired leg and headed back to his home state when UL (3-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) visits South Alabama (3-0, 0-0) on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN�) in Mobile.

His leg is still stabilized with a metal rod so sizeable it sets off the metal director when he’s dealing with TSA security prior to plane flights. Two screws were inserted as well, but they’ve since been removed because they were rubbing against a muscle.

“Training camp (this year) was big for me … because I had to get used to that rod being in my leg,” said Bishop, whose father played for Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL from 1994-99. “I just had to train my body to sustain a (hit).”

Give them too.

Bishop started UL’s first two games and has been sharing time with 2020 Star starter Ja’Len Johnson.

In a season-opening loss at Texas, Bishop had a career-high five tackles.

Two weeks later, in a win over Ohio, he had four, and now Bishop is an integral part of a defense that limited Georgia Southern to three touchdowns in UL’s 28-20 win last Saturday at Cajun Field.

Long road from Tuscaloosa

Success has come only after traveling the long road from Tuscaloosa, where Bishop knew odds were stacked against his hopes of starring right away for his hometown Crimson Tide.

“Originally I didn’t know I was going to Alabama until Coach Dunbar … saw my film in high school and (said) I could walk on over there,” he said.

Karl Dunbar, the father of former UL defensive lineman and current Cajuns assistant strength and conditioning coach Karmichael Dunbar, was Alabama’s defensive line coach at the time.

An Opelousas native who played at LSU, Karl Dunbar is now the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line coach. He was a senior in Baton Rouge when Harold Bishop was redshirting as a freshman there.

“Then I sat down with (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban during Junior Day and he laid out a plan for me,” Brandon Bishop said.

Bishop arrived in time to redshirt during a 2018 season that ended with Alabama’s national-championship game loss to Clemson.

“I wasn’t really seeing any playing time or anything like that,” Bishop said.

“So I spoke with (then-Alabama strength coach) Scott Cochran, a good friend of coach Napier’s, and I was just like, ‘I want to go play for coach Napier at Louisiana.’ So (Cochran) made the phone call, and coach Napier was just like, ‘We’d love to have him.’”

That was all Bishop needed to know.

“After that, I just packed my bag and came to Lafayette,” he said. “I didn’t even have a visit or anything. I just came … without knowing any of the coaches.

“It was probably the best decision of my life, because I ended up getting a scholarship and now I’m playing and contributing.”