Lineman Sees Anything As Possible

VIOLETA ARRAZOLA
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Tell him it can’t be done and he’ll tell you it can be done. Tell him it’s impossible and he’ll tell you anything is possible.

Discourage his hopes, dreams and aspirations and you’ll find he won’t budge.

This is the strength of mind of Jason Bonwell, 24, starting defensive lineman for the Vaquero football team. His drive and love for the game of football has help to thrust his team into its best start in years with an overall record of 6-2.

Part of his hard-work ethic has come from what he learned when by serving four years with the U.S. Marines.

After graduating from high school in 1999, Bonwell, who in fact played basketball at John Muir High School in Pasadena, made an agreement with his mother that if he didn’t get a full scholarship to play basketball, he would join the military. After receiving only partial scholarships to some of the schools that were recruiting him, Bonwell decided it would be best for him to go into the service. Two weeks after graduation, Bonwell was off to boot camp at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside.

Bonwell continued playing basketball for the Marine basketball team and also went to school on base to learn to become an electrician.
In July 2002, Bonwell and his platoon, the 1st Combat Engineering Battalion, were sent on a training mission to Okinawa, Japan. But in March 2003, their training was abruptly ended when the war in Iraq began.

Bonwell was then sent to Baghdad, Iraq in April 2003, where he fortunately only stayed for two months. During his stay in Iraq, Bonwell lost friends during combat that he had trained with in boot camp, but knew he had to stay strong.

“It was hard to adapt to, but life has to go on,” said Bonwell. “If one man goes down, it doesn’t stop the whole operation. That is what I signed up for and they said this could happen.”

After two months in Iraq, Bonwell had completed his four years of service in the military. But when he started his civilian life over, he realized it was harder than he thought.

“I was so used to that [Marine] lifestyle-getting three meals a day, not having to worry about what to wear or about rent, that I considered going back to the Marines,” said Bonwell.

That didn’t happen though because Bonwell’s father convinced his son that he had other options. “My dad talked me out of it,” said Bonwell. “He told me to use my athletic ability and to make something of it.”

The advice surely paid off. This season, Bonwell has been named defensive player of the week twice in the Western State Conference and has broken the team’s single season quarterback sack record of 17, a record that had been unbroken since 1985. And for his hard work and determination, he has helped guide his team to a tie for first place in the Western State Conference.

?”He’s just a great leader and a hard worker,” said head football coach, John Cicuto. “He brings a positive attitude to the games and practice and is always willing to help the freshmen.”

Since Bonwell joined the football team last year, which was his first year playing on an organized football team, Cicuto said the player has made some extensive improvements and has worked really hard off-season to better himself and the team. “His transition from his freshman year to his sophomore season has been incredible,” said Cicuto.

Bonwell can also add father to his resume; he has a 2-year-old son. Cicuto also gives credit to Bonwell for taking care of school as well as family. “He has a lot of responsibilities and has managed to take care of school,” Cicuto said. “He’s a great father.”

Bonwell, who will graduate this spring with his associate’s degree in Social Science, wants to get a full ride to a division one school, UCLA in particular. “If UCLA doesn’t happen, that won’t stop my career,” said Bonwell, who plans to attend whichever school offers him the best scholarship.

Currently, Arizona State, the University of Washington, and the University of Minnesota have all looked at Bonwell.

His ultimate dream would be to make it to the NFL so his mother won’t have to work anymore and so he could build a church for his father, who is a pastor. “My mom has been holding four jobs for as long as I could remember and she’s 51 now,” said Bonwell, who is the second youngest in a family of 10. “I’m tired of seeing her work.”

Bonwell also plans to defy all the people who have told him he can’t make it because of his age. As inspiration, Bonwell uses Mike Anderson, tailback for the Denver Broncos, as an example. Anderson, who was also in the Marines and didn’t end his service until he was 25, went on to a community college and played football, got a scholarship to Utah State and then got drafted to the NFL at the age of 29. Anderson then went on to win rookie of the year.
“Every time I think that, I think ‘if he could do it, than so can I,'” said Bonwell.

For Bonwell, where there’s a will there’s a way. The sky is the limit.