Before Ohio Defensive End Shane Bonner became one of Ohio’s most effective pass rushers, he was a star running back at John Glenn High School. Bonner helped carry John Glenn to the playoffs as a running back with over 900 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns in the 2017-18 regular season.
Even in high school, Bonner’s athleticism allowed him positional versatility that his peers didn’t have. In addition to playing RB, Bonner spent snaps at linebacker. Bonner’s impressive numbers at RB throughout his high school career allowed him a spot in Ohio’s crowded 2020 RB room.
Upon arriving at Ohio University, Bonner’s skill as a pass catcher out of the backfield allowed him to venture into the wide receiver position.
According to Bonner, the man who discovered Bonner’s pass-catching abilities was current Ohio Head Coach Tim Albin.
Not only did Bonner have positional versatility at John Glenn High School, but he also had sports versatility. Bonner’s past in playing basketball empowered his abilities as a Bobcat.
“Basketball was my really my first sport until my junior year,” Bonner said. “I like jumping, getting off the ground and getting up in the air and getting rebounds, which is why I was able to play receiver and try safety because I could jump up and catch the ball.”
Bonner’s lack of experience at receiver and his body shape prompted a fork in the road for Bonner from Ohio’s WR Coach Dwayne Dixon. Bonner was recommended to switch back to his original position of RB or move to safety. After approval from Albin, Bonner made the decision to switch to the defensive side of the ball.
Before his junior season, Bonner made progress climbing the ladder behind Ohio’s experienced safeties; despite making it up as the team’s third safety in the depth chart, Bonner was ready for another position change. With openings on the defensive line, Bonner was encouraged by Ohio Passing Game Coordinator and Safeties Coach John Hauser to try his luck as a defensive end.
While no transition is easy, Bonner’s NFL ambitions at least made his body transition easier. Bonner knew he would have to become heavier to play WR in the NFL; he gained weight in between his sophomore and junior years anyway. Then, when Bonner elected to play safety, he decided to increase his weight to 220 pounds. Bonner went from a slightly large safety to an undersized DE and has stayed at 220 pounds ever since.
Bonner finally made an impact for Ohio as a junior in his new home as a defensive end. Bonner saw time in all 14 games alongside experienced defensive linemen Vonnie Watkins and Jack McCrory. Bonner had tackles in games throughout the season but made his biggest splash in Ohio’s overtime bowl game against Wyoming. Bonner had a team-high two sacks against the Cowboys as one of the Bobcat's biggest defensive standouts in the game.
This year, Bonner has fully come into his own as a DE with three sacks and four tackles for loss. According to Bonner, his success is at least partially due to his past as a WR, RB and safety.
“I’ve definitely used everything I’ve learned from each position coach because they’re all very specialized in their position,” Bonner said. “They’re like masters of it. So I just try to take everything I’ve learned from each coach and just use it to where I’m playing now. A bunch of my moves on defense are actually like my receiver releases.”
Bonner’s individual success, given his nonlinear past on Ohio’s roster, is one of the more impressive stories on Ohio’s team. However, even more important to Ohio achieving its goals is his and his teammates’ willingness to play a part in one of the best defenses in Ohio history.
“It feels good, we really work for it,” Bonner said. “So we all just work together, do our little things right and good things happen.”