Jonathan Bonner achieves goal by starting as a senior
Mia Berry | Friday, November 17, 2017
In the summer of 2013, defensive lineman Jonathan Bonner was heading into his senior year of high school at Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Missouri, still undecided about where he would spend the next four years.
Bonner was Missouri Class 5 All-State selection as a junior, but he had only received a few offers and wasn’t nationally ranked at the time. But on June 26, after talking on the phone with the former Irish defensive backs coach Bob Elliot and Brian Kelly, Bonner received an offer from Notre Dame and gave a verbal commitment to the Irish the same day.
The offer came days after Bonner traveled to South Bend and impressed Notre Dame coaches with his skills at a summer football camp. Bonner attributes his rapid commitment to Notre Dame to wanting to follow his family’s legacy.
“One of my dream schools growing up, my grandfather was a huge Notre Dame fan, and that was the school I knew growing up,“ Bonner said. “Outside of me, other members of my family went here too. My uncle Dan Knott was on the 1977 championship team with Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana, and Sergio Brown, who is like a cousin to me, also went here, and went on to the league, so I knew all about Notre Dame, and when I got offered here I knew it was the right place to go. It was like a dream come true for me.”
Four years later, Bonner is a consistent starter on the defensive line in his senior season. Known on the field for working alongside junior Jerry Tillery and fellow senior Jay Hayes to create a pass rush and run defense that has helped bolster Notre Dame into the national spotlight. To his teammates Bonner is known affectionately as “Lean,” a nickname derived from the fact that Bonner is undersized as a defensive lineman.
Nevertheless, Bonner’s skill and technique has made him the target of numerous double teams. His career statistics for the Irish include 32 tackles, two forced fumbles and eight quarterback hurries.
Reflecting on his initial goals he had set for himself his freshman year, Bonner is proud to say that he accomplished much over his career — both academically and athletically.
“My goals when I first started here was to find a major that I liked because I was unsure at the time, and that worked out well because I found a major [IT management] I liked,“ Bonner said. ”[For football] the goal was to earn a starting spot on the team, which I finally did this year.“
In his freshman season Bonner, like many college freshman, redshirted to maintain a year of eligibility due to a talented defensive line that featured future NFL players in Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones.
After recovering from a toe injury that sidelined him in the spring season, Bonner earned a backup role on the defensive line. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Bonner played as a consistent backup defensive lineman and alternated between linebacker and lineman. In his senior year, Bonner cemented himself as a starting interior defensive lineman in new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s system.
As time winds down on his Notre Dame football career, Bonner says the thing he will miss the most is the camaraderie between him and his fellow teammates.
“The best part about being on the team is hanging out with the guys in the locker room, the live jokes, and it a very fun atmosphere to be in with my brothers,” he said.
Throughout his journey both on and off the field, Bonner has learned valuable lessons from his time at Notre Dame that he believes will help him live a successful life after football.
“My biggest takeaway is working hard,“ he said. “It takes a lot a work to accomplish the things you want to do, and if you take shortcuts things won’t work out. So if anything I learned the importance of work ethic.
“… I also feel like I’ve heard from a lot of people not to regret anything, so I make sure when I get out there I do the things that I know to do, and not keep my bubble too small.”
Heading into the last few games of his college football career, Bonner is uncertain what the future holds for him. The NFL may not come knocking for Bonner, and he is fine with that. He is set to graduate in May of next year with a degree in IT management from the Mendoza College Business. The only thing he is certain of for the time being is that he won’t seek a fifth year of eligibility after redshirting his freshman season.
As of now, Jonathan plans to pursue a career in IT management and although he hasn’t officially signed to work with any company, but he hopes to go into IT consulting or any line of work relating to technology.