Vaught's Views: Bonner plays for 'fun'

January 26, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - He completed 297 passes for 2,833 yards and 63 touchdowns last season for the Lexington Horsemen. He was second in the National Indoor Football League in pass rating (109.1) and third in total offense (2,884 yards), passing yards and touchdown passes.

But numbers are not what brought quarterback Dusty Bonner back to the Horsemen for a second season.

"It's just fun. A lot of my friends are coming back and doing it again, too," said Bonner. "When I say I enjoy being in Lexington, I really mean it. I love my home (in Georgia), but right now I am young and it is time to get out and do things I like. What I like now is being in Lexington and playing football with my friends."

Bonner, the NIFL Atlantic Conference Offensive Most Valuable Player in 2003, helped the Horsemen average 53 points per game last year when they finished their inaugural season 9-6.


Of course, Bonner's success was no surprise to University of Kentucky football fans. He led the Southeastern Conference in completions, completion percentage and touchdowns in 1999 when he guided UK to a Music City Bowl berth. However, he lost his starting job in the offseason to Jared Lorenzen and transferred to Valdosta State. All he did there was be named the nation's top Division II player two straight years.

"It was nice to be back here playing last year. You get competitive and last year reminded me of just how much I enjoyed playing football," said Bonner, who recently started a job with a Lexington company in the home health care field.

One big reason he came back to Lexington last year was Tony Franklin. He was an assistant coach at Kentucky when Bonner played there and was the Horsemen's head coach last year. However, he was not re-signed for this season, and Bob Sphire, the head coach at Lexington Catholic and the Horsemen's defensive coordinator last year, is the new head coach.

"I will absolutely miss coach Franklin. He's not only a great coach, but he's a great friend," Bonner said. "He did a great job in getting this franchise off the ground and getting things started in the right direction. He did a fantastic job bringing in players. A lot of our credit last year goes to him. We'll miss him.

"There will be some changes in the offense this year because coach Sphire has to do it his way. We've already looked at the offense. A lot of it is similar stuff with the crossing routes. The things he does are things I'm used to doing."

The Horsemen had their final tryout Saturday and the roster should be close to set this week. It will again include three former area players - wide receiver-defensive back Craig Yeast, defensive lineman-tight end Gordon Crowe and defensive lineman-tight end Julius Yeast.

Bonner likes the athleticism of players assembled for this year's team. However, he thinks what the returning players learned last year will help the Horsemen more than anything this season.

"We just know more about what to expect," Bonner said. "We've still got to work, but there's no substitute for experience. The first time you go through anything, whether it is this or dating a girl, you learn what not to do and what to do. I think that will be a big benefit to us just knowing from the mistakes we made last year what to do or not do."

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