MANKATO – Two fans in the front row at a Vikings training camp practice were trying to figure out which running back had broken through the line of scrimmage for a 10-yard touchdown run.
“That’s C.J. Ham,” said the first fan. “The guy they’re trying at fullback.”
But then the running back returned to the huddle with the first-team offense. When he turned his back to the crowd, the name on the jersey read, “Sankey.”
“But it says Sankey,” the second fan said.
“Who the heck is Sankey?” the first fan said.
Don’t feel bad, guys. We’re all discovering who Bishop Sankey is. The hard way.
A week into training camp, there is zero competition at running back. Latavius Murray, the veteran free-agent acquisition, remains on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from ankle surgery. And Jerick McKinnon left the field on Day 1 with an undisclosed injury and has yet to participate in team practice drills.
That has left rookie second-round draft pick Dalvin Cook, a guy everyone knows, and Sankey, a guy few apparently know, splitting reps with the first team.
Heck, the Vikings even signed a linebacker named Darnell Sankey last week. He’s Bishop’s cousin. Certainly Darnell is familiar with Bishop, right?
“Actually, we just met each other for the first time when he got to camp,” Bishop said. “We talked on social media and we know we’re cousins, based on our family tree. But we still have to hash it out as far as how closely we’re actually related.”
Well, meet Bishop Sankey.
Born in Wadsworth, Ohio, he lived in that state until high school. Father is Christopher, a member of the Air Force, Bishop’s first mentor and disciplinarian, and a guy who has been deployed to the Middle East three times.
Went to Gonzaga Prep High School in Spokane, Wash., rushing for 2,000 yards in a season not once but twice. Went to the University of Washington, where on one play his junior year, he broke the school single-season records for rushing yards, held by Corey Dillon, and rushing touchdowns, held by Napoleon Kaufman.
“That was in the Apple Cup, a big rivalry game vs. Washington State,” Sankey said. “It was an inside zone run to the right. I kind of stretched it out and cut back. It was maybe a 10-yard run, but it was a great game. My last college home game. An unbelievable experience with the crowd going crazy.”
The crowd hasn’t gone crazy for Sankey in some time. He was a second-round draft pick of the Titans in 2014. But he lasted only until last preseason, when a new front office cut him, ending his Tennessee career with 762 yards in 29 games.
“The new front office signed DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry,” said the 5-10, 213-pound Sankey. “After that, it was pretty much over. My career hasn’t gone how I pictured.”
Sankey joined the Vikings practice squad last season after stops on the practice squads in Kansas City and New England. He is a long shot to make the Vikings’ final roster. But you never know with injuries.
Monday, Murray gave an update on the right ankle that was operated on in March. Although the team said Murray was expected to be healthy by training camp, Murray said he is not behind schedule and that there’s no timetable for his return.
He and coach Mike Zimmer disagree on the level of concern that Murray still isn’t practicing. Asked if he could get himself ready for the regular season without training camp, Murray said, “Most definitely. At the end of the day, football is football. I think for me it’s just making sure physically I’m OK. The mental part of it, it’s a game I’ve been playing all my life.”
Asked about that comment, Zimmer said: “Well, he is a smart guy. But he needs to get out there.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Sankey just keeps plugging along.
“I’ve always been durable,” Sankey said. “I take pride in that. Knock on wood.”