NICK BISHOP of Jefferson will continue his education and tennis career at Mount Union University in the fall.

Nick Bishop had an inkling early on that he might be talented enough to continue his tennis career after he graduated from Jefferson. That notion was confirmed recently with a telephone call from someone at the University of Mount Union.

“The tennis coach called me and asked if I’d like to play tennis there,” Bishop said. “They were the first to contact me and I guess I looked at it as a first-come, first-served basis. I visited there and liked the campus. They contacted me first and I liked the programs they have.”

The son of Paul and Jodi Bishop will pursue a degree in wildlife management or environmental science while playing tennis for the Purple Raiders.

Bishop hardly even considered going elsewhere.

“I really didn’t apply to any other school,” Bishop said. “I was set on them once they contacted me. I liked the campus. I pretty much put all my eggs in one basket on that one.

“I visited Ohio State, but I didn’t like it there. I don’t like being just a number. I like to have those personal relationships with the teachers.”

Though he had thought he might have the talent to play in college, Bishop was a bit awed he would get the opportunity.

“I was very surprised, actually,” Bishop said. “I knew I had some talent for tennis, but I didn’t think I had enough to get noticed. It turns out I did.

“When I made the varsity my freshman year, I thought, ‘Gosh, I’m good enough to take this farther than high school.’ ”

An avid outdoorsman, Bishop plans to make a career out of what most people might consider a hobby.

“I will probably move down south and keep an eye on animal populations and regulate them however it needs to be done,” he said.

“I’ve always been outdoorsy. My dad has always taken me hunting, fishing and camping. I like to be outside. I would rather work and make an honest living outside than be stuck behind a desk. All the time I’ve spent outside made me want to be outside for a career. If you’re going to be working for a living, I might as well like what I’m doing.”

Having his decision made at the onset of his senior season changed the direction of the pressure Bishop

faces with each match.

“It took the pressure off finding a school,” Bishop said. “The pressure is still there to be as good as I possibly can, though the pressure of finding a school isn’t there anymore.”

Jefferson tennis coach Lou Murphy has had quite the impact on Bishop during his time at Jefferson.

“He’s supported me through everything,” Bishop said. “He’s like a second dad. He’s supported me to no end. He’s been my whole influence to keep up with tennis. He’s just a walking, talking inspiration 24-7.”

Murphy isn’t the only influence Bishop has appreciated.

“My family has supported me 100 percent through everything,” Bishop said. “They’ve pushed me to be the best I can possibly be. I don’t think I would be as driven without them.”

Part of what has given Bishop, whose younger sister, Arden, an eighth grader at Jefferson, is a fine player in her own right, the opportunity to pursue a college career is his dedication to the sport.

“I’d rather be great at one thing than good at a bunch of things,” Bishop said. “I’d rather be the best at something. In my mind, if you’re not first, you’re last.”

It’s also that competitiveness that drives Bishop.

“I can’t stand to lose,” Bishop said. “I’m very sportsmanlike after a match if I lose, but I will stay after and practice. I’ll kick myself for a couple of days, but it makes me work harder for next time. It’s OK to lose if I lose knowing I gave my best, but losing still sucks.”

Bishop isn’t shy about his goals for next year, though he understands he has to raise the level of his game.

“I would like to start varsity,” Bishop said. “I have to beat everybody I possibly can and play where they tell me to play.

“Every tool in my game is good. I just have to work and push it to be great.”

Playing in college is a bit different than in high school. High school players play either singles or doubles. College players are often asked to play both. It might be an adjustment for Bishop.

“I played doubles my freshman year and I have played doubles in practice the last couple years,” Bishop said. “I’ve played doubles before. Of course, there are always parts of that game that need tweaked, but I’ve been playing doubles in practice. You get out of it what you put into it.”

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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