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Matador Hall of Fame Spotlight: Sherdrick Bonner

09 Dec 2021 | 06:44 | Track and Field

Sometimes at a job, you’re required to wear many hats. For Sherdrick Bonner, he took that to heart while at CSUN.

A rare four-sport student-athlete from 1987-91, Bonner is one of the most versatile student-athletes in school history, lettering in basketball as a guard, in volleyball as a middle blocker, in track as a high jumper and in football as a starting quarterback.

Bonner competed on some of the most decorated teams in school history. He helped lead the Matador football team to the 1990 Western Football Conference championship. Bonner also competed for the nationally-ranked Matador volleyball team and played for Hall of Fame CSUN coach Pete Cassidy on the hardwood.

Following his days in Northridge, Bonner would go onto have a superb career in the Arena Football League. Voted as the greatest quarterback in the history of the league, Bonner was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 2012.

“My college career definitely shaped my professional career,” said Bonner. “I was determined to be the best that I could be day in and day out.”

In typical Bonner fashion, he keeps busy wearing multiple hats to this day.

He is an analyst for Mountain West football and basketball games while he also calls men’s and women’s games for the Western Athletic Conference. He also trains quarterbacks near his home in the Denver area while he and his wife Lindsay, a former All-American soccer player at Nebraska, are parents to two sons, Mason and Cameron.

Having the opportunity to do a little bit of everything was one of the factors that persuaded Bonner to commit to CSUN in the first place. Bonner, who attended Asuza High School, nearly went to Citrus College before he received a faithful visit from Matador football assistant coach Pat Degnan.
Sherdrick Bonner
Bonner helped lead CSUN
to a conference title in
1990, the school’s first
football league title

“It was that visit that changed everything,” said Bonner. “It was the assurance from coach [Bob] Burt that I could play basketball [at CSUN] too. It really felt like a great fit for me.”

Bonner earned seven varsity letters while at Azusa High School, participating in a host of sports including basketball, baseball and track. While at CSUN he would get the opportunity to play multiple sports too.

In his freshman year at CSUN, Bonner became a two-sport athlete, playing on both the football and basketball squads.

Playing for coach Cassidy, Bonner competed in 23 games with the men’s basketball team in 1987-88 and averaged 12 minutes per game.

“My time with the Ridgedawgs, which was what he called ourselves, was a ton of fun and I kept trying to talk Todd Bowser into being my right tackle,” said Bonner. “We had great leadership on that the team and as a young guy I was trying to soak it all up from Troy Dueker, Carl Cooper, Pat Bolden, Ray Horwath and Alan Fraser. Those guys helped teach me how to lead.”

While establishing his leadership skills, Bonner also began his football career with the Matadors in the fall of 1987, playing for the winningest head coach in team history, Bob Burt.

“Coach Burt was very tough, the staff worked us very hard and there was never a season where it felt like we didn’t get better or make progress,” said Bonner. “Our strength coach was Marc Banker and he was great for me. I hadn’t spent much time in the weight room but learning how it’s supposed to be done helped me after college.”

Bonner also learned a great deal from quarterback coach Degnan. The lessons learned three decades ago are still a part of his coaching to this day.

“He really showed me how to work and the technique he drilled into me in the hallways outside the coaches’ office stick with me to this day,” said Bonner. “The technique I was taught carried me well into my professional career and I use it now to train young quarterbacks.”

After spending his first two seasons as a backup quarterback, Bonner earned a starting job and a role of team captain beginning in the 1989 season where he passed for over 1,800 yards with eight touchdowns. Following a solid junior season, Bonner and the Matadors broke through for one of the program’s best seasons in 1990.

“I believe it was our maturation along with having one of the best running backs in the nation, Albert Fann,” said Bonner. “We all played hard for each other and that’s why we had success.”

Playing alongside 11 all-conference players including an All-American running back in Albert Fann, Bonner helped guide the Matadors to a record-breaking season as he passed for over 1,100 yards and finished with five touchdowns. CSUN won a school-record seven-straight games during the year, earning a national ranking as high as No. 7 and finishing as co-champions of the Western Football Conference with Cal Poly.

During the championship run, the Matadors faced the Mustangs in front of a school-record 7,127 fans at North Campus Stadium. CSUN would eventually earn its first taste of playoff football in 23 years, competing at San Luis Obispo against Cal Poly in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Sherdrick Bonner
Bonner is sixth in CSUN
history in career passing
yards with 3,533

In a tight playoff game, Bonner helped erase a 7-0 deficit in the fourth quarter with a pass to Adam McKinney for a touchdown to tie the game. However, a late Mustang drive led to the deciding touchdown, handing the Matadors a tough 14-7 loss.

The loss still leaves a bitter taste in Bonner’s mouth 30 years later.

“I want a re-do,” said Bonner. “We finished the regular season with a home loss to Cal Poly 6-3 and that would have given us a home playoff game as well as the outright conference championship. We went on and lost the next week in the playoff. We were the better team and when you’re the QB and you score 10 points in two games, it really sticks with you.”

While his football career at CSUN ended in not so favorable fashion, Bonner definitely left his mark in the annals of Matador history. He is fourth all-time in school history in passing completions (319) and passing attempts (637) while he is sixth in passing yards (3,533).

After the 1990 football campaign, Bonner was not quite done with CSUN. He utilized his fifth year of eligibility and used that time to compete on the school’s volleyball and track teams.

Despite having zero high school volleyball experience, Bonner tried out for the nationally-ranked team and made the squad. He served as a reserve under head coach John Price in 1991 but to him, playing volleyball are some of his fondest CSUN memories.

“It was something I fell into being a Kinesiology major,” said Bonner. “I took coaching theory class with coach Price and learned how fun and athletic a sport it was so I worked on it extremely hard.

“It was incredible to play against the likes of USC and UCLA as a top-10 ranked team,” added Bonner. “I can’t say enough about how great it was to play with Neil Coffman, Coley Kyman, Matt Unger and Raphael Tulino.”

Bonner also tried his hand at track and experienced success. A former track athlete in high school where he won a CIF title, Bonner was impressive as a high jumper with the ability to register a 7-foot jump.

“I had always told myself if the opportunity presents itself, I would jump for the Matadors,” said Bonner. “One of the best memories was beating Dave Johnson [a former Olympian decathlete] at a meet at Azusa Pacific.”

After his CSUN career, Bonner transitioned into playing football professionally. In the years that followed, Bonner joined the Arena Football League where he went on to have a storied 15-year career that included two ArenaBowl victories with the Arizona Rattlers.
Sherdrick Bonner AFL
Bonner won two AFL titles
and was inducted into the
AFL Hall of Fame in 2012

During his time with the Rattlers (1993-07), Bonner developed into one of top quarterbacks in the league. He attributes his success to the leadership at Arizona and the help of Rattler head coach and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White.

“Coach White ran a tight ship much like coach Burt and it was easy to have success within that environment,” said Bonner. “He really had a way of always getting the best out of me. Gene Nudo was the vice president of our organization in Phoenix and he wore so many more hats than that. He was a confidant, a friend and a counselor all in one.”

Bonner would win the AFL championship in 1994 and again in 1997 but his first championship had added significance as he took home Most Valuable Player honors. Passing for four touchdowns and 267 yards, Bonner helped the Rattlers upset the top-seeded Orlando Predators 36-31 for the title. Still though there are other seasons that stick with him more.

“I honestly don’t think about the two wins but the championship game losses we suffered in 2002, 2003 and 2004 hit hard,” said Bonner.

Along with his AFL career, Bonner spent time on four NFL squads including the Miami Dolphins in 1995 and Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers in 1999. He was also on the practice squad for the eventual NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in 1998.

“I believe the biggest thing I learned throughout my time in the NFL was exactly how much preparation went into trying to be a consistent player at the hardest position on the field,” said Bonner.

The AFL would go through much change during his time in the league including gaining more mainstream exposure after AFL alum Kurt Warner joined the NFL. The league also expanded its size from 10 to 19 teams during that time. Bonner notes that the talent seemed to get better year after year as well.

“There are talented guys all over the league and I’m sure everyone’s heard of Kurt Warner but every team had a QB that could get it done with the right opportunity,” said Bonner.

Once again trying his hand at numerous things, Bonner would take on the role of offensive coordinator with the Rattlers near the end of his career. He also served in that role after his playing days with the Chicago Rush. The role came with challenges though because of his competitive nature.

“I learned a lot about coaching and being on that side of the game,” said Bonner. “The biggest thing I had to remember is that I’m not out there as a player. It took some time for that fire to cool down inside of me so that I could be better for my players.”
Sherdrick Bonner Analyst
Bonner is an analyst for
college football and
basketball games

After taking his final snap on the field, Bonner turned to broadcasting, rekindling a passion he first established years before.

“It started in 2000 with a call from an individual named Rich Reid,” said Bonner. “He was with Cox Channel 7 in Phoenix. They were starting a live Thursday broadcast of high school football and he wanted me to be his analyst.

“I was hooked,” added Bonner.

Over the past decade, Bonner has worked as a sports analyst, broadcasting basketball and football games for several conferences. His contributions to the game also continue back home where he trains quarterbacks. He has started his own business and website at qb13training.com.

Naturally, his family is a huge part of his life 30 years after his Matador career. And in typical Bonner fashion, his sons have begun to take his lead.

“The boys are heavily involved in football, basketball and lacrosse,” said Bonner.

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