Allen Park — About 7 miles down Michigan Avenue from the Detroit Lions practice facility, you’ll find Bishop Auto Wrecking in Inkster.
The nearly 50-year-old family business opened by Freddie Bishop Sr. in 1969 has an impeccable reputation, carrying an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau. Built from the ground up on the back of hard work and determination, it serves as a constant source of pride and motivation for Bishop Sr.'s grandson, Freddie Bishop III, the 259-pound linebacker looking to latch on with the Detroit Lions this training camp.
Bishop, 28, is in his second stint with the Lions, although it might be a stretch to call the five weeks in he spent with the club in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out Western Michigan a stint.
From there, Bishop’s football odyssey took him to Canada, where he played three seasons with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. He won a Grey Cup in 2014 and enjoyed his breakout the next year, tallying 44 tackles and 11 sacks in 17 games, which proved to be his ticket back to the NFL.
He spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets, bouncing between the team’s practice squad and 53-man roster, appearing in nine games during that stretch, including three starts in 2016.
Now, the road has led back home for the Western Michigan alum.
“It’s a great feeling being back home, in my comfort zone, around my family,” Bishop said. “I have a very big family and to know they’re out here supporting me — they come out to the practices — watching me, being hands on as I go through this process, it’s great, man.”
Freddie Bishop Sr. passed away in November 2015. Grandmother Dorothy runs the family business now and remains one of her grandson’s biggest supporters. And his daily approach on the field reflects the lessons his grandparents imparted on him as a youth.
“My grandfather came up here from Mississippi and started his business from nothing and we’ve been in business nearly 50 years now,” Bishop said. “His drive, my grandparents instilled that in me from a young age that anything you want in life, you’re going to have to work for it. At 8 years old, I told my grandfather this is what I want to do and I’ve been working toward that ever since.”
Bishop faces a naturally uphill battle to make Detroit’s roster. He wasn’t signed until just before the start of training camp, so the window of time to make an impression with the coaching is smaller than those he’s competing against.
But despite not being around for the earlier stages of the offseason program, Bishop has made a relatively seamless transition. He has routinely stood out on the practice field, both in individual and team drills, showing a diverse set of skills as a pass rusher and run stopper.
“He’s picked up the stuff very well,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “He has experience, so he’ll be able to translate some of the information that he has in his head and put it into our language, which is good. But I would say, a guy that came in and tried to really make an impression from his physical presence and the way that he plays on the line of scrimmage and his aggressiveness, which I think so far he’s done a good job of trying to show us that. We just have to see it on a consistent basis and see if he can really get with the techniques and the things like that that we’re asking him to do.”
A traditional defensive end most of his playing days, Bishop learned the basics of playing off the ball while with the Jets, and carries that required versatility with him to Detroit.
“Going to the Jets definitely helped me achieve that comfortability, being out in space,” he said. “That was really the first time I was made to drop. I had to learn how to cover — the hook, the curl, all those routes.
“When you’re changing from defensive end to linebacker, you have to learn to expand your vision and read the whole picture,” he said. “Talking about how I’m a better player, that’s part of it. I’ve learned how to expand my vision.”
Bishop will look to keep his momentum going, continue to chase his dream, as the Lions shift into joint practices and the preseason opener with the Oakland Raiders next week.