Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012
By RYAN ARENA
Alex Bonnette ended his Riverside career without a scholarship offer. But he had an inkling that he wasn’t yet done with football.
Now a sophomore, the Rebel alum probably wouldn’t have dreamed he’d be set to run through the tunnel at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday night as part of the LSU Tigers when he walked on two and a half years ago. But that’s indeed what will happen for the former All-District and All-Parish offensive tackle.
Bonnette did not play football for all four years at Riverside — former Rebels coach Mickey Roussel called him a late bloomer — but he said that upon his graduation he felt something inside of him urge him to keep his career going.
“I just had a feeling in me that I wasn’t through,” said Bonnette. “And I wanted to be a part of something big, a strong program. So I walked on.”
He’s glad he did. Bonnette said that he’s learned much from his experiences with the Tigers, as he now stands in his third season.
“I enjoy every day,” he said. “It’s great on the field, and off the field it definitely helps you socially. People recognize you, and it’s easy to strike up a conversation. You make a lot of friends.”
While at Riverside, Bonnette broke out in his senior season under then-coach Tim Taffi. The Rebels began the year by converting to a wing-T offense but shifted midway through the season to a spread style to accommodate incoming quarterback Darnell Rachal’s skillset.
That meant having to pick up two different systems in the same season. Despite that, Bonnette excelled.
Roussel, who coached Bonnette prior to that season, said the 6-foot-2, 280-pound lineman’s work ethic served him well.
“He wasn’t very athletic when he started, but he was always a kid that worked each day,” Roussel said. “He was very focused and determined. That’s what got him on at LSU and why he’s there today. He’s so persistent. When you walk on, it’s tough to stick it out each day, but he wants it.
“He was one of the guys (at Riverside) who just wanted to get better.”
Roussel also praised Bonnette’s mental grasp of the game.
“I think he’d be a good coach one day,” he said. “He didn’t have a lot of God-given talent, but he made himself stronger, made himself more knowledgeable. He was always willing to help the others on the team when he was on the sideline.”
Bonnette said each day brings a new challenge in practice, where he goes up against one of the most talented and deepest defensive fronts in football each day.
“You face off against the best in the country each day. The fastest, the strongest and the biggest. It’s a great thing to test yourself against,” he said.
Another great thing would be to secure that BCS championship ring.
That would validate his gut feeling of over two years ago, once and for all.
“It’s a dream come true, and I never saw it coming,” said Bonnette. “It’s a great feeling. Even to just run out onto the Superdome turf, it’s special for me.”