Cynics may snicker when they hear the phrase "scholar-athlete," but John Bishop (W'97), the All-Ivy safety and captain of Penn's 1997 football team, sees no contradiction at all in the term.
C.W. Pack Sports photo
"The discipline required for football is relevant to both athletics and academics," he said. "If you can carry what you learn on the field into your studies, it definitely helps."
And Bishop has the honors to back up his assertion, the latest of which is a Thouron Award that will allow him to pursue post-baccalaureate study in England.
During his last semester at Penn, Bishop received recognition for his performance both on and off the field. His team-leading performance as safety earned him a spot on the 1998 All-Ivy First Team, and his equally impressive performance as a finance major landed him on the Academic All-Ivy list, and netted $10,000 for Penn's scholarship fund when he was named a Burger King Scholar Athlete of the Week.
To top it all off, Bishop was also awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, which he also plans to use to further his graduate studies in England.
He credits his success to applying the lessons learned playing football to his studies. "One of the things you learn on the field is how to deal with pressure, and that definitely helps come test time," he said. "Another is the relevance of preparation. The more prepared you are for a game, the better you will perform. The same is true for tests."
But test-taking and paper-writing are solo activities, while football is a team sport. Does teamwork have any place in academic pursuits? It sure does, says Bishop: "In most of my finance classes, we had group projects, and the teamwork aspect of football helps you not only in those projects but in all your relationships as well. You learn how to deal with different people, to become someone others can trust, and how to figure out who you can trust. It's also a great lesson in accountability."
Bishop plans to pursue an honors degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford with his Thouron and NCAA awards. Failing that -- Thouron recipients must still be admitted to the school of their choice -- he will study finance at the London School of Economics.
Of all his awards and honors, though, the most valuable one was the one his teammates bestowed upon him: that of team captain. "It shows the respect my teammates had for me when they voted for me," he said.
Before heading off to England in the fall, Bishop will spend nine days in Italy later this month as a counselor for 10 middle- and high-school students on Parade magazine's Young Columbus Adventure. Bishop is one of three Penn students and 14 nationwide who will accompany the youth, who won contests sponsored by local newspapers across the country.
Originally published on March 19, 1998