Good article on Bonner in today's paper:
Bonner embarking on 15th season with Rattlers
Mike Dugan, Tribune
Sherdrick Bonner made his debut with the Arizona Rattlers in 1993, the same year that Suns star Amaré Stoudemire turned 11 and five years before the Diamondbacks played a game.
He’s outlasted five Cardinals head coaches and five Phoenix mayors.
All told, Bonner has plied his trade in the Valley longer than any other current professional athlete in town – much longer.
“There’s no place like Phoenix and the Valley,” said Bonner, who will begin his 15th Arena League season tonight when the Rattlers play host to Georgia at US Airways Center.
“Somebody was talking to me about being the most tenured athlete in the history of the state, and I was like 'what?’ It really hadn’t dawned on me, but that just makes me proud to wear this uniform, it makes me proud to be in this city and makes me thankful of the support the fans have given us over the years.”
Named one of the 20 greatest AFL players last year, Bonner has etched his name all over the league’s record book, ranking in the top five in all-time yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts.
The five-time all-Arena selection is the only player in AFL history to win at least 100 games. His 18 postseason wins are also a record, as are his five ArenaBowl appearances, two of which ended in championships (1994 and 1997).
Last year, when many thought his play would begin to tail off, Bonner enjoyed one of his finest statistical years, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and 83 touchdowns, six shy of his career best set in 2003.
“He’s ultimately, I feel, the best quarterback to ever come through this league,” said Rattlers wide receiver Randy Gatewood, Bonner’s teammate for 10 seasons. “He’s got the records, he’s got the stats to back it up. Overall, just a great guy, great quarterback and a phenomenal person.”
Along with experience, Bonner brings a quick release and a sharp mind to the game, enabling him to process information quickly — a must for any AFL quarterback. It’s one of the reasons the Rattlers have not named an offensive coordinator for this season.
Last year, under then offensive coordinator Lary Kuharich, Bonner started having more input in terms of installing the game plan and that has carried over to this year, with second-year head coach Gene Nudo giving Bonner a lot of freedom to shape the offense.
It’s something that keeps him engaged, he said.
“During the week, I’m at home writing down scripts for the next day’s practice,” he said. “Mentally, I’m football, football, football.”
Bonner said once his playing days are over that he “absolutely” wants to segue into a coaching career, but for now his focus is elsewhere — getting the Rattlers to the top of the AFL once again.
Season opener: 7 p.m. today vs. Georgia at US Airways Center, tape delayed at 10 p.m. on FSN Arizona.
Last year: The Rattlers started 0-3 but went 8-5 the rest of the way, making the playoffs for the 13th time in franchise history. After beating the Danny White-coached Utah Blaze in the first round, their season came to end with a loss to division rival San Jose in the second.
Who’s gone? Damien Groce and his 21 touchdowns parted for Columbus, leaving a void a wide receiver. Also gone is second-leading tackler Clarence Lawson, who left for Utah. Lineman Mark Tucker retired and is now on the coaching staff, where he continues to be a valuable asset in the locker room.
New faces: Defensive back Keyou Craver signed with the team in the offseason after spending the last couple of years playing in the Canadian Football League. Craver was a former Jim Thorpe Award finalist and an All-American at Nebraska. Chandler native Brandon Phillips, who went to Tempe Corona del Sol before going to the University of Arizona, joins the front line.
Outlook: Much has been made of the Rattlers’ age, with nine players on the active roster 30 or older. Not surprisingly, those within the organization believe that just means the team has more experience. The most important pieces — Randy Gatewood and Sherdrick Bonner – are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. But, based on their play last year, when Gatewood was Ironman of the Year and Bonner threw for 83 touchdowns, they both still have a lot left. A major key, therefore, will be the health of the two veterans – especially Bonner, who has had some injury issues in recent years. A 16-game season out of them would go a long way toward ensuring that the Rattlers’ once again make the postseason. Another key will be avoiding a start like last year’s 0-3 opening. Two home games to open the season against Georgia, who some experts are picking to go to the ArenaBowl, and Utah could go a long way in determining the ultimate fate of the team.