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Originally published November 25, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Page modified November 26, 2013 at 9:34 PM

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Washington’s Bishop Sankey close to setting records, and reaching new plateaus

Huskies running back could set record for rushing yards in a season this week.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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When it comes to his future, Bishop Sankey doesn’t appear to be in a rush.

The Huskies’ standout junior running back, on pace to break Washington’s rushing record for a season in the Apple Cup on Friday, will wait until after the team’s bowl game to decide whether to enter the NFL draft early, his father said.

“To be in a position to even consider going to the NFL is a blessing,” Chris Sankey said. “Of course, we want him to get his degree and he’s worked so hard at it. We really want him to get that degree.

“Then you put everything in perspective — what’s the right decision at the right time for him and his future? It’s kind of like one of those good predicaments to be in.”

Sankey, his father said, has broached the topic of the NFL with him a couple times. Agents, or their go-betweens, have started to reach out to Sankey and the family, usually through a third party.

It’s a new process for the family, and Chris Sankey said they will take time to meet with UW coach Steve Sarkisian after the season and weigh the options carefully.

“You never know,” Chris Sankey said. “You want to give 100 percent to finishing out the season, and he’s giving that to Coach Sark. After that, we’ll sit down with Coach Sark and see what his take is on everything. We haven’t really given it much thought. … Who knows? Maybe he wants to come back and make a run at the Rose Bowl.”

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15. Sankey, projected as a possible second- or third-round choice should he forgo his senior season, was named Monday one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation’s top running back.

Sankey has never done much to call attention to himself. After a touchdown, he typically will flip the ball to an official and jump into the arms of a teammate in celebration. In interviews, he thanks his offensive linemen.

Others have a hard time explaining what makes him go, what’s making this run toward the best season ever by a Washington running back so special.

“Bishop,” Sarkisian often says, “is Bishop.”

Patience, next to his durability, is perhaps Sankey’s best asset. Patience isn’t always that exciting, but Sankey is starting to get the attention Sarkisian said he believes he deserves.

As part of the Doak Walker Award presentation, Sankey will fly to Orlando, Fla., for the event at the Walt Disney World Resort. It’s the Golden Globes of college football awards shows, and ESPNU will air it live on Dec. 12. Sankey won’t be able to avoid the spotlight there.

If all goes well for the Huskies (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) Friday afternoon, Sankey will be the center of attention as he tries to break Corey Dillon’s UW rushing record of 1,695 yards set in 12 games in 1996.

In 11 games, the 5-foot-10, 203-pound Sankey has 1,575 yards this season, third most in the nation, for an average of 143.2 a game.

“You know, if it happens, it happens,” he said of the rushing record. “But really I’m just trying to be productive for the team and trying to pick up as many yards as I can.”

He also has 17 rushing touchdowns this season and 34 in his career; one more would push him past Napoleon Kaufman for the most ever at UW.

“He’s not the most physically imposing guy when he walks in the room as you guys know, but he plays big and he plays hard,” Sarkisian said. “He comes to work. He understands the game plan. He studies the blocking scheme probably better and more so than any running back I’ve been around. …

“This guy brings it every single day with a great mentality. You fly home from a late ballgame and he’s one of the few guys up studying for his midterm coming the next week or writing a paper. He’s got a great mentality about himself that I think is contagious and rubs off on our players.”

Sankey, while starring at Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, had been committed to Washington State for more than a year. He then changed his mind shortly before letter-of-intent day in February 2011 and signed with UW, stirring some heated emotions in this rivalry.

In UW’s 31-28 defeat against the Cougars last season, Sankey had 84 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries; his average of 3.23 yards per carry in that game was the lowest against any Pac-12 opponent last season.

This season, his durability and consistency help UW’s hopes of climbing past the seven-win plateau.

“It just seems like he’s just getting better and better,” Chris Sankey said. “But I tell him all the time, ‘You have a lot more work to do if you’re going to get where you want to be.’ ”

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or ajude@seattletimes.com.



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