By Steve Williams
Karns junior running back De’Sean Bishop, who led the Beavers to their first TSSAA playoff win in school history this season and put his name in the state record book along the way, has been selected the The Knoxville Focus / Coaches’ All-Knox County Player of the Year.
He was the choice of 15 of the 17 Knox County head coaches at the 13 Division I schools and four Division II schools in the county.
One vote each went to Powell senior defensive lineman Walter Nolen III and Fulton senior defensive lineman Seth Vaughn. (To be fair, The Focus’ rule for this award does not allow a team to vote for its own player.)
“It’s like all the hard work has paid off this year,” said Bishop when learning of his selection. “With everything that’s been going on, it’s a big accomplishment and I’m going to look at it like that.
“I’ve worked hard every year and it’s finally paying off it seems like,” adding he also appreciated the respect the coaches showed him with their votes.
“Honestly, you can look at it as an individual award, but it’s really a team award,” said Bishop. “Without the other guys, I’m not able to rush for all these yards and make all these big plays. It’s a team effort award as I look at it, too.”
A big part of the others that Bishop was referring to were four senior offensive linemen – Josh Bland, Timmy Robbins, Stevie Massey and Drew McMillan – and junior center Jacob Kirkland.
“Those four guys did a great job and they took a lot of pride in the success that De’Sean had,” said Karns Coach Brad Taylor.
The 5-11, 185-pound Bishop currently is ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing by MaxPreps.
He is a running back who mixes speed with shifty moves, good vision and toughness. Sometimes he slips off a defender on the corner and takes it to the house. Other times in heavy traffic he’ll take on a defender nose to nose and flat try to run through him.
It all added up to 3,179 yards rushing on 441 carries this season – two statistics that will put his name in the TSSAA state record book.
Bishop now ranks No. 2 in most rushing yards in a season behind only Jalen Hurd, the former University of Tennessee RB who amassed 3,357 yards at Beech in 2012. De’Sean also is tied for first in most carries (441) in a season and is second in all-purpose yards (3,622) when you figure in his 248 receiving yards and his 195 yards in kick returns.
Bishop tied the number of carries Warren County’s Jeff Womack had in 1981 and De’Sean’s all-purpose yards ended up only eight yards short of Gary Meadows’ 3,630 total at Meigs County in 1993.
Bishop also moved past former Powell star Dy’Shawn Mobley, who ranks No. 4 in most yards rushing (3,068 in 2011) in TSSAA history, thus making De’Sean No. 1 all-time in that category in Knox County, too.
But coming into the season, breaking records wasn’t De’Sean’s goal. No. 1 on his mind was winning in the playoffs – something Karns had never accomplished until defeating Walker Valley in the first round in what also was Karns’ first-ever home playoff game.
“I really didn’t think of breaking the record (for most yards rushing in a season),”said Bishop. “I didn’t know what the record was.
“We were trying to set 2,000 yards as our goal this year as I had around 1,900 last year I think. And by the fifth game of the year I was close to 2,000, so we raised it to 3,000 and that’s when people started talking about ‘Oh, he might break the record now.’ And that’s when I started to strive to break the record.”
Still, the playoffs remained first and foremost on his mind.
“We came a long way from winning two games in two years, making it to the second round of the playoffs,” he said proudly on the field at Rhea County after the second round loss. “That’s a win in our book.
“I’ve got to say thank you for all those sticking with me. I could be anywhere playing right now obviously, but I chose to stay here at Karns and I trust the process of just grinding out … I wanted to be the leader and the builder for that process.”
De’Sean also recalled a conversation he once had with his mom when discussing where he was going to go to high school. “Karns isn’t that good momma, I’ll give it a try.
“I really like the school,” he says now. “It’s a good chemistry. I got to give this to all the coaches – they look after me, making sure I’m doing great in school and I’m doing my best …”
De’Sean had just one more thing to say that night. “It’s like a brotherhood here and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”