Bonner ready to prove himself again
by Chris Goltermann
More times than not, Alan Bonner has beaten the odds on the football field. The one-time Newnan High All-State receiver hopes this week’s NFL Draft is no exception.
Bonner once turned a potential pitfall into a positive as a high school senior. Spurned by Alabama-Birmingham at the last minute, the wide-receiver/kick returner took an scholarship offer from nearby FBS school Jacksonville State and never looked back.
The turn of events may have ultimately helped carry him onto an NFL roster by the end of this weekend. He’s predicted to go anywhere between Rounds 4-7 today.
Despite missing a game during his senior year with the Gamecocks, Bonner led JSU with 859 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, earning All-Ohio Valley Conference honors and invitations to play in both the Senior Bowl and the inaugural Raycom College Football All-Star Classic.
Along with former high-school teammate Alec Ogletree, who was picked by the St. Louis Rams with Thursday’s 30th overall selection, he’s one of three players from Coweta that could land themselves on NFL rosters by next fall.
“It feels like a dream about to come true,” Bonner said this week. “I wasn’t a highly recruited player out of high school. There was a lot of things I had to work on. I think with the season I had this year and being at those All-Star Games and being at the [NFL] Combine and Pro Days, I was able to get some exposure.”
Just like Ogletree, Bonner immediately began his college career as a true freshman in 2009 before eventually leaving the program as the Gamecocks’ all-time career leader in punt-return yards (972) and punt returns (87), while ranking second in both pass-receiving yards (1,986) and touchdowns (20).
But Bonner also knew statistics can take you only so far. Which is why he’s focused the majority of the last four months on training for the NFL Draft, first with XPE Sports in Boca Raton and more recently in Buckhead.
“You got to be dedicated to the game,” he said. “I’ve learned that it’s not where you come from. It’s just about all what you do on the field.”
Between his efforts both during last fall and the postseason, Bonner’s earned his share of attention despite less fanfare than his former teammate at Newnan High has prior to the draft.
ESPN’s draft “guru” Mel Kiper had plenty to say about Bonner’s abilities both as a receiver and a kick returner in the league while referring to him recently in a recent conference call as “a sleeper type guy.”
His prediction for Bonner was a potential selection during the 4th-7th rounds today.
Kiper described the 5-10, 193-pounder as someone “a little off the radar that maybe has the chance to make a team and contribute. I think he develops into a very good player.”
Last year’s schedule included games against two SEC foes, Arkansas and Florida, to open and close the schedule while finishing 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the OVC. Bonner set a school record with five touchdown catches in a 49-47 loss at UT-Martin during the season while also tying the conference mark.
He had 10 catches for 235 yards, second most in Gamecock history, for the game.
The transition between college and the pros for receivers may be one of the most difficult of all positions, with tighter coverages and an increase in physical play among defensive backs.
At XPE Sports, Bonner got a chance to talk with Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter about the jump to the pros.
“He really helped me a lot,” he said. “He told me to make sure you get in and out of your routes to stay out of getting jammed.”
The trip to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis was an equally unique experience that included two days of medical and written tests as well as interviews before finally showcasing one’s talent on the field.
“They’re really just want to get a feel for you and what kind of player you’re like,” said Bonner. “A lot of teams have talked with me, but I can’t really say who would pick me. Right now, it’s looking good.”