One scoop of coffee ice cream was all Desmond Bishop could afford. There will be plenty of time for the Green Bay Packers linebacker to splurge on sweets once the season comes to an end.

Even NFL tough guys have to watch their figures.

"I'm on a diet," Bishop joked during a telephone interview last week. "But I've got to treat myself."

This season has been the longest of his four-year NFL career. It also has been the most productive and rewarding for Bishop, who starred at Fairfield High, City College of San Francisco and Cal on his way to being a sixth-round pick of the Packers in the 2007 draft.

Season-ending injuries to Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar provided an opportunity for Bishop to become a starter at inside linebacker. He took full advantage of it, recording 103 tackles.

"It's not a surprise to me and the people who really know me," he said. "I'm doing what I've been doing since I was 8. It took an unfortunate circumstance so my talents could really come out."

Bishop's performance this season is one reason the Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.

"It still hasn't hit me," he said. "It feels so surreal."

Bishop, 26, has gone from fighting for a roster spot each season to signing a four-year, $19 million contract extension last month. In the NFL, that is the closest it gets to job security.

Bishop does not think of it that way, however. NFL contracts are not guaranteed. He'll receive $5 million in one lump sum, but the rest of his pay will be determined by his play.


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Nothing has been given to Bishop since his name was called by Green Bay in the 2007 draft. He took it as a slap in face waiting until the sixth round to be selected.

Bishop was coming off a season in which he led the Pac-10 in tackles with 126 as a senior, the first Bears player to do so in 13 years. He was a first-team selection to the all-conference team.

At the NFL combine, Bishop displayed his strength by bench-pressing 225 pounds 33 times, but he didn't run. In his pro day workout at Cal, he ran 40 yards in 4.81 seconds.

That raised concerns about Bishop fitting in a 4-3 scheme. Fortunately for him, Green Bay runs a 3-4.

Few sixth-round picks survive three years in the NFL unless they prove they can be ready when needed. When the Packers lost Barnett and Chillar, Bishop vaulted to the top of the depth chart.

There are 5 million reasons to think he will be a starter next season.

"I could visualize (starting). I could actually see myself doing it," Bishop said. "When the opportunity actually came, I never even thought about it. It was second nature. I've never looked back."

His view these days is from "the inside looking out." Backup players don't get much attention from coaches and front-office folks. As a starter, Bishop finally is getting recognized.

"That's so true, even with the players. They couldn't relate to me, and I couldn't relate to them," he said. "The personnel people call me by my first name. I didn't know they knew I existed."

The same goes for fans. Bishop, who's 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, can go out for ice cream in the Green Bay area and not be recognized.

"Only the real fans," he said, "know who I am."