SEATTLE – The more animated he gets, the more Grandpa Sankey’s Southern drawl echoes through the phone.
The 68-year-old from Montgomery, Ala., is excited, and understandably so. On Saturday night, he will get the chance to see his grandson, the nation’s leading rusher, play college football for the first time when Washington junior Bishop Sankey leads the No. 15 Huskies against No. 5 Stanford.
Albert Sankey joked that he isn’t satisfied with a seat in the Stanford Stadium stands, though.
“I feel good. I feel like I can get out there and put on a suit (uniform),” Albert Sankey says, belly-laughing. “I could be the fullback. I could block for Bishop!”
That he wants a close-up look at his grandson is understandable, too. It’s not just that he hasn’t seen Bishop play for the Huskies – Grandpa Sankey hasn’t seen, period, for the past five years.
Albert Sankey has been blind in his left eye for more than 30 years. Then, about five years ago, after a long bout with glaucoma, he lost sight in his right eye, too.
On Sept. 20, he had a cornea transplant in his right eye at UCLA’s Laser Refractive Center. Albert wore a patch overnight; the next day, he went back to the doctor’s office and had the patch removed. The first thing he saw was the face of the doctor’s assistant, and he immediately gave her a hug.
“I was blind and now I can see,” he said. “It’s a miracle.”
On Sunday, nine days after the surgery, Albert Sankey hung out with his son, Chris – Bishop’s dad – an Air Force technical sergeant stationed in San Pedro, Calif.
Watching his father watch his grandson on television Saturday was special, Chris said. Bishop Sankey had a school-record 40 carries and 161 yards rushing in UW’s 31-13 win over Arizona last week, a performance that boosted the Gonzaga Prep graduate back into the national rushing lead with 151.8 yards per game.
When Bishop was younger, Albert used to make a trip at the end of each summer from his home in Montgomery to stay with Chris’ family in northeast Ohio. And, over the next couple of months, Grandpa Sankey would be a regular at his grandson’s pee-wee football games.
By the time Bishop was in middle school, all Grandpa Sankey could see on the field were shadows. And when Chris and his wife, Heidi, moved the family to Spokane just before Bishop started high school, Grandpa Sankey would still visit, but he couldn’t see anything at games. He would sit in the stands and listen for the announcers to mention Bishop’s name so he could cheer.
This weekend will bring something new.
“I’m pretty excited,” Bishop said Wednesday. “He’ll be there, and it’ll be his first game seeing me in college. I know he’s excited.”
“I can’t wait to hug him,” Grandpa Sankey said, “and see his face.”