The Enforcer

Baylor grad Keith Bishop played in three Superbowls. Ten years later, he's become a star again -- this time, by fighting Dallas drug dealers.

Upon retirement in 1990, and inspired by Lewis, Overman, and Abrams, Bishop decided to pursue a career in law enforcement. His father, George, used to discuss the frightful effects of drugs with his son, used to tell him about the plague they visit on people, how they cause society to deteriorate from within. Those talks, coupled with the anti-drug stance of his Midland Lee High School coach, Jim Acree, made the DEA a good fit in Bishop's opinion.

There was only one problem. He didn't have a college diploma--the DEA requires its agents to have a four-year degree. When Bishop entered the NFL draft nearly 10 years earlier, he was 15 credit hours shy of a bachelor's in education. But, due to time elapsing and course requirements changing, when he returned to Baylor to finish school, he was informed that he owed 27 hours.

While he polished off the remaining course load, Bishop served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Bears football team. At the same time, five days a week he'd run and lift weights, preparing for possible acceptance into the DEA's strenuous training program in Quantico, Virginia.

"I slimmed down to about 240 pounds," says Bishop, whose square jaw and thick neck give him a don't-mess-with-me look. "I was in the best shape of my life." (His playing weight was a muscular 280 to 285 pounds.)

The hard work didn't go unrewarded. After earning his degree and undergoing a nine-month background check, he shipped off with 40 others for 14 weeks of training courtesy of the DEA. It wasn't easy. Each prospective agent had to pass aptitude tests ranging from a two-mile run in under 10 minutes, 30 seconds (you're not that fast) to push-ups to sit-ups to firearms. If that and the lack of sleep and physical exhaustion weren't enough, the DEA instructors caught wind of the fact that Bishop was a former NFL star. Unlike his friends in Denver's Metro SWAT, the boys at Quantico didn't think it was such an endearing quality.

"They got on me pretty good," Bishop laughs, remembering the verbal abuse. "Afterward, we got to be friends, and they told me about why they did it. They had the agency's best interests at heart. They wanted to make sure I was sincere in wanting to join the DEA."

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Today, after eight years with the DEA, Bishop is seen as one of the key figures in the Dallas branch office. He's had his share of run-ins and close calls, like the Navarro County raid and an incident during a car stop. After a lengthy surveillance of a suspect, agents targeted a vehicle with a good sum of money in the trunk and pulled it over. When Bishop and his team approached the car, wearing full gear, the woman in the driver's seat put her hand inside her purse but stopped when the DEA shouted to cease her movement--good thing, too, because she was going for a pistol.

"You're not thinking 'Oh, I could have gotten hurt there,'" Bishop says, already forming 5 o'clock shadow at a little past 10 a.m. "It's more 'I'm upset that someone might have forced me to kill them in order to defend myself and my group.' I would have to live with that for the rest of my life. That's the hardest part."

So far, he hasn't been forced to fire his gun. Primarily, he works with wiretaps, helping to coordinate joint efforts between his agency and local law enforcement. In 1997, he worked on Operation META, which targeted the Amezcua-Contrara drug cartel from Mexico. It was the largest methamphetamine sting in DEA history. Bishop, local police and sheriffs departments, the FBI, customs, and DEA branches that had wires in 17 cities from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, were involved in the investigation. By the time it was all over, Operation META resulted in the arrest of 121 members of the trafficking ring and the confiscation of 1,765 pounds of marijuana, 1,100 kilograms of cocaine and 133 pounds of methamphetamine. At the time, the street sale for the bounty, using Dallas-area drug prices, would have been approximately $20 million (the cost of narcotics has since gone down, making it a buyer's market for all you interested parties out there). It's the type of effort that would have been difficult to organize without proper cooperation.

"Nowhere in law enforcement are egos bigger than in narcotics," says Dallas narcotics detective Paul Ellzey, who worked on Operation META. "And when you have local guys dealing with Feds, the right hand doesn't always know what the left hand is doing, know what I mean? But at least in Dallas, with Keith, there was an open door policy. There always is with him. Everything is on the table. With other agents, they don't always let you know what's going on. With Keith, it's not like that at all. I've worked narcotics for 23 years and bar none, he's probably the ace No. 1 guy. He has an outstanding reputation."

"He's one of those guys who always says what 'we' did," agrees Dallas sergeant Rod Bray of the Interdiction Group, who has frequently worked with Bishop. "He doesn't mind the long hours. He'll fall out of bed at four in the morning, do 'round-the-clock investigation, put in his 12-to-18 hours with everyone else, do his paper work the next day and then ask if you need a hand."

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