Connecticut wide receiver Russell Thompson-Bishop officially signed with Syracuse two weeks ago, one of four wide receivers to sign with the Orange. The three-star wide receiver chose SU over Boston College, UConn, Temple and Navy, among others. He reportedly runs a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and bench presses 255 pounds, according to his HUDL page.
While it is obviously too early to draw any comparisons between the two, Thompson-Bishop (6’2”, 198 pounds) sports a very similar stature to former Syracuse All-American wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo (6’2”, 202 pounds).
TNIAAM had the pleasure to chat with Thompson-Bishop about his recruitment, his goals for Syracuse football and if he thinks a hot dog is a sandwich.
The following has been edited slightly for conciseness.
AG: Why Syracuse? Why did the Orange stand out for you throughout the entire recruitment process?
RTB: Syracuse intrigued me right when I went up there for my personal workout in June. The way all of the coaches were really watching me and how interested they were in me and how heavily they recruited me. It was the offense they ran, the balance between academics and athletics and just the story of the school, and how illustrious it is.
AG: You mention Syracuse’s illustrious career, how interesting is it that Dwight Freeney came from your high school and is one of the most highly prestigious Syracuse football players of all-time?
RTB: Yeah, that had a lot to do it, just Dwight being from the area and all. …Just the connections my school has with Syracuse and I can just continue that legacy.
AG: You previously mentioned the offense Syracuse runs, what excites you the most about Dino Babers’ offense based on what you have seen or heard?
RTB: What excites me the most is Dino told me he was going to put up big numbers. Throughout the season, we’re going to the games, we’re watching on T.V. and he did exactly what he said he would from a quarterback and receiver standpoint, so I know he’s a man of his word. Playing receiver, if I show out in camp and learn to playbook and do what I need to do, I have a lot of opportunities to make plays on Saturday night.
AG: Now, when you were following Syracuse and watching them play, were you excited seeing Amba Etta-Tawo put up the numbers he did, and could you imagine yourself being in that situation in two-or-three years?
RTB: Yeah, I definitely could imagine myself being in that situation. I loved watching Amba play; Amba is a great player.
AG: How would you describe yourself as a wide receiver and what are the best facets of your game?
RTB: I would describe myself as certainly a downfield threat, breakaway speed, someone who is big, strong, can block and do whatever a receiver needs to do and has the ability to make a big play.
AG: Do you have a preferred spot to line up or a few routes you think you’ve mastered?
RTB: Wherever I get put on offense that’s where I’m going to play, but if I had to choose a side I’d choose the left side, the left outside receiver. And a couple routes I’ve mastered would be the comeback and the post corner.
AG: Why the left side?
RTB: I played the left side for two years here at my school and I just got used to running my routes from that side. …I’m just used to playing the left outside receiver but I can play either one of them.
AG: I’ve read for the last two years you were always double-covered. Was that true, did you really never face single-coverage throughout your junior and senior years?
RTB: Yeah, I was always double covered. It actually started around sophomore year when one of the other players got hurt. They didn’t see another threat, so teams would either double covered or have three on me, which would be like a shell – so one in front of me, a linebacker dropping behind and a safety over the top.
AG: Now when that first started it, did it frustrate you a little bit or was it just something you knew you’d be able to handle?
RTB: Well, when I was younger it frustrated me, so like early sophomore year it was frustrating. But I got used to it, I embraced it and I just had to learn how to make plays and go up and get the ball, and that’s what my coach taught me how to do.
AG: Do you see almost as if it as a compliment, you’re a sophomore, you’re a teenager and you’re already getting double covered by opposing teams?
RTB: It’s definitely a compliment. It shows there is a lot expected out of me and I’ve got to step up to the plate.
AG: Now, on Twitter your pinned team reads something along the lines of “Connecticut athletes are underrated.” Did you feel that way throughout your recruitment process and maybe based on the numbers you had, did you feel as if throughout your recruitment process you went under-the-radar?
RTB: I definitely flew under-the-radar. My first offer came in March of my junior year, so towards the end of my junior year and that’s when I first got my first offer, when I had no stars, nothing. So being from where, where a lot of players don’t get respect, it’s just great to be able to prove the doubters wrong and to continue do things, hopefully like what Erv does at Syracuse right now. (Ed. note: Syracuse inside receiver Erv Phillips is from West Haven, Ct.)
AG: With that chip on your shoulder – in essence you’ve made it, you’re playing D-1 football and you signed with Syracuse. But do you still have that chip on that shoulder, do you still want to prove all of those scouts wrong throughout your college and potentially professional career?
RTB: Yes, definitely. I don’t want to get complacent with just signing with Syracuse. It’s just one stepping-stone opening up another chapter of my journey. I just got to put in the work and everything will be set in stone after that.
AG: What are your personal goals for year one, and what are your goals for the team?
RTB: Personal goals for me year one would be to come in, learn the offense quickly, get to around 212-215 pounds of just solid muscle, get some more speed on my breaks – those would be a good start. And my goals for the team would be to be in a bowl game and beat one of the teams we’re not expected to beat.
AG: I’m assuming you’ve already saw Syracuse has the No. 1 strength of schedule, what was your reaction when you read that?
RTB: My reaction was, just not a surprise. It’s the way it was done. Can’t change it now, all we can do is embrace it. And I think our coaches will prepare us well for it.
AG: How do you see the team and yourself developing by your junior and senior year?
RTB: By my junior and senior year, I’m expecting big things from the team. I’m expecting us to get more highly touted recruits and just build the team and make it complete and compete for an ACC Championship.
AG: Now, I heard you’re going to be rooming with (fellow 2017 signee quarterback) Tommy Devito, is that still the case and how exactly did that happen? Were you just randomly assigned or did you choose to room together?
RTB: Around the time I was getting ready to commit, I got close to Tommy and we started to talk a lot. During the Virginia Tech game, when we were both here and just talking with (co-offensive coordinator Sean Lewis), we just decided we were going to room together. Because both of our styles and the way we do things, we could help each other out and it would be fun to room together.
AG: What do you exactly mean by “style?” Just your off the field manner?
RTB: Well personally, we’re really close and we’re going to have a lot of laughs together. Off the field, we’re both very organized and we’ll keep each other on-track if we need to. And just whenever we want to go around and throw the football late nights, 11 o’clock, 12 o’ clock in the indoor (facility), we’re definitely down to do that.
AG: Off of that, do you think rooming together is going to help you two develop chemistry in terms of that quarterback–wide receiver relationship?
AG: I also read you’re set to graduate to the top of your class in terms of GPA. Why do you think grades are so important and do you take offense to that whole stigma that football players are dumb or don’t care about school?
RTB: Yeah, I definitely take offense to that stereotype. I wrote my college essay on that exactly. Defying that stereotype is what I want to do. All the stereotypes and opinions of what people think about football players, you can’t judge a football player by the whole group. You can’t judge one by the whole group of them. So that’s why I take academics very seriously, to show other football players it is possible; it’s not that hard. You just have to do all the work and ask questions when you need to and stay humble.
AG: In your twitter bio, the first sentence you write you just want to make your mother proud. Is that something she kind of engrained in you, valuing the importance of academics?
RTB: Yeah, definitely. She instilled that in me at a young age.
AG: Going off of that, what do you plan to major in when you get to Syracuse?
RTB: I’m going to major in sports marketing.
AG: When did you make that decision and what interests you about sports marketing?
RTB: I decided that, I’d say a couple months ago. Just because that’s the field I’d like to go in, maybe one day working in an NFL front office or any professional organization. Or maybe work with “SportsCenter” in the analytics part. I have good connections with that, Syracuse also has good connections with “SportsCenter,” ESPN, and that’s right around the corner here in Connecticut, in Bristol.
AG: Going on a different path here, when did you first start playing football? And when did you first realize this might be something you’d want to do on a collegiate level?
RTB: I started playing football in the 8th grade, with our town team – and I wasn’t really that good then. It was like my first year up in Connecticut, so I wasn’t used to the cold and everything. I first started thinking of doing in college going into my sophomore year, after freshman year.
AG: You said you weren’t used to the cold, are you used to it now? Because it gets pretty cold up in Syracuse.
RTB: Oh yeah, I’m used to it now.
AG: I’m going to rattle off some personal questions, so the first thing that comes to mind feel free to shout it out. What’s your favorite movie?
AG: The first one, or any of the other sequels?
RTB: The third one, “Dark of the Moon.”
AG: Favorite T.V. show?
AG: Any pre-game rituals?
RTB: I pray and I do the symbols in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
AG: What’s on your workout/motivational playlist?
RTB: I don’t have any songs in particular, just a bunch of Meek Mill, Drake, G Herbo – just a lot of the rappers that are in now. I don’t really have a real preference.
AG: Xbox or PlayStation?
AG: Favorite video game?
AG: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you or one thing people wouldn’t expect?
RGB: I was a soccer player for about seven years of my life, before I played any other sport.
AG: What led you to stop playing soccer?
RGB: I stopped playing soccer when I moved to Connecticut (from Florida), and I don’t know, it was too cold. (Laughing) I just didn’t want to be outside running up and down that much.
It's official... @CuseFootball pic.twitter.com/C6X6iQ6WPF— Russell Thompson® (@RTB__1) August 1, 2016
AG: Do you think any of your experience playing soccer could have helped you transition to football or is it just two different sports that doesn’t really transition over?
RTB: It definitely helps with the stamina, being able to withstand the whole game. And speed definitely helped, and coordination with your feet. That’s probably about it that it corresponds with.
AG: Any board or bar games you like to play?
RTB: Checkers and pool.
AG: What are you most excited for freshman year?
RTB: Being a part of the team, catching a lot of footballs, showing out at a young, early age and being able to strap-up and play on national T.V.
AG: Do you ever get nervous prior to a game where you’re just running off the things that could potentially go wrong or do you do the exact opposite and focus on what can go right and try to envision the game right before you step on the field?
RTB: I try not to get nervous. Because being nervous is just thinking something is going to go wrong. And that’s what I don’t do because when you think things are going to go wrong, it actually happens. So I only think positively. I only think on how I can help my team and putting it all on the line.
AG: One more question, do you consider a hot dog to be a sandwich. And why or why not?
RTB: Yes, because it’s a meat contained by bread, I guess (laughing).