Nothing in former ThunderWolves quarterback Chris Bonner’s life is small.
He plays big, he dreams big and not to mention, he’s 6-feet-7 inches tall.
At 6’7, Bonner is listed as the second tallest man on the ThunderWolves 2014 roster, trailing only 6’8, 275 pound senior defensive end Josh Bredl. But Bonner thinks he might have a slight edge.
The former three-sport Clairemont High School athlete, who played power forward and center for the basketball team, found out quickly in his football career that being 6’7 can come with its advantages.
“(Being tall) helps for the most part with vision and arm strength,” Bonner said. “I was kind of raw at first, but I’ve always had an arm so coaches liked that.”
After turning his focus primarily to football his junior and senior years, it wasn’t long before the former basketball big man began to develop a talent that rivaled his size.
Following high school, Bonner played quarterback for Grossmont College in San Diego for two years before transferring to CSU-Pueblo following a stellar sophomore campaign.
It didn’t take long for Bonner to learn the difference between high school and college level athletics.
“Size and speed. I remember my first day of college practice. I was like, ‘the smallest guy here is bigger than the biggest guy I played with in high school,’” Bonner said.
Not one to shy from a tall task, Bonner came to CSU-Pueblo and stepped almost seamlessly into his new role as the ThunderWolves quarterback, leading the team to a 12-0 regular season, only to be disappointed in the second round of the 2013 playoffs.
Harnessing that disappointment the following year, Bonner and the ThunderWolves would not be stopped.
“I think it was just the experience. We had been there before, and we knew what we had done the previous year, so we just learned from our mistakes and held each other accountable and knew what it took to make it all the way,” Bonner said.
After achieving the pinnacle of Division II football accomplishments, however, Bonner had little time to relax before his next big challenge: an appearance Jan. 10 in the annual Medal of Honor Bowl, a college all-star game for senior NFL prospects across the country.
“(The week leading up to the game) was pretty intense, it felt like we were in camp. The practices were really high competition, and there were a lot of scouts on the sidelines,” Bonner said.
Most of its participants being from FBS schools, the Medal of Honor Bowl is the last chance for college seniors to make an impression with NFL teams going into the 2015 NFL scouting combine in February.
That kind of exposure is pivotal, especially for Bonner, one of the event’s only Division II attendees.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but you just try not to think about it,” Bonner said. “You get to talk to NFL teams one-on-one. A lot of the guys said they had never heard of me, but they saw me throwing and leading in practice, and they were impressed so I thought I made a good impression out there.”
Although Division II football players have a much more difficult path to the NFL than their Division I counterparts, Bonner has never been one to settle for what is easiest or most convenient. From unknown high school quarterback, to Division II national champion, to NFL hopeful, Bonner’s dreams just keep getting bigger and bigger.
“I’m taking the semester off so I can focus (on getting ready for the draft.) I’m putting everything I’ve got into it so I’ll have a good chance,” Bonner said. “So I’m going to see where football takes me.”