Bonner developing into star at Delta State University

Published 7:07 am Friday, January 19, 2024

Attending Southside High School, Christopher Bonner always dreamed of playing college football. 

The former Panther standout just completed his third year at Delta State University (DSU), starting at defensive end for the Statesmen.

Bonner graduated from Southside in 2021. Going from Dallas County to the DSU campus in Cleveland, Mississippi was a challenge but Bonner has worked his way through the process. 

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“The biggest adjustment was getting used to the speed because college football is played faster than high school,” Bonner said. 

During the first year, Bonner began to realize why he picked DSU.

“Delta State is a great place to play football and attend college,” Bonner said. “To me, it is one of the best colleges in the country.”

Bonner began at linebacker, but eventually moved to defensive end. He added extra weight and muscle for the position change.

“I started out weighing 186 pounds at Delta State,” Bonner said. “I added muscle and I now weigh 238 pounds. I was already rushing the passer at linebacker and I am now at defensive end.”

Delta State defensive coach Clifford Matthews’ association with Bonner began when he was an assistant coach at Southside, Selma High and later head coach at Dallas County High School (DCHS).

“During my first official teaching/coaching job I had the pleasure of coaching with Chris’s father where I served as defensive coordinator. Chris was a young ball boy,” Matthews said. “I developed a relationship during that time and left for Selma High for four years then had the pleasure of coaching against him while being head coach at Dallas County.

“I returned to coach him for his senior season at Southside. Chris was an athletic, dependable, and accountable athlete. He’s a young man full of integrity. He was the leader on our defense as well as the offensive guy who led by example. He was just a leader everywhere.”

Bonner, the son of Pastor Octavius and Sonja Bonner, said he enjoyed playing at Southside under two different coaches, Daniel Flowers and Charles Moody Jr.

“At Southside, I learned the definition of hard work and dedication,” Bonner said. “We had so much talent.”

Flowers said Bonner always flashed potential during his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“I remember a couple weeks before spring ball, Chris came to me and said he was thinking about not playing football any more, I told Chris, that football will take him places,” Flowers said. 

“The next day, Chris told me he was going to give it another try! Chris is a great person. He always had a positive attitude! I never saw Chris complain about work! He came to practice with a workers man attitude! He was all about business! Chris is the type that you would want your Daughter to marry.”

Moody succeeded Flowers and Bonner continued to develop. Moody always saw improvement in Bonner, The Selma Times-Journal’s defensive MVP in 2020.

“Chris was special, he was one of the guys who changed the culture here,” Moody said. “He was coachable, worked hard, and selfless!. He was the kind of kid you loved to Coach.! I’m proud of him and what he has accomplished!”

Bonner is also thriving in the classroom and an honor student. Bonner has a 3.0 Grade Point Average and is majoring in Sports Management. Bonner is on track to graduate in the fall or next spring.

“You get into a routine everyday and you stick to it,” Bonner said. 

 Matthews said he has seen improvement in Bonner since he arrived on campus three years ago.

“I can remember throughout the recruiting process when Delta State came up,” Matthews said.  “I told him that it was a very good program for champions. I told him you fit the mold. Delta State is a dominant university in all facets of the game. I’ve watched him earn everything he wanted at Delta State. 

“He’s a big time contributor on the field and as always excelling in the classroom. It’s awesome that I had the opportunity to coach such a great young student athlete. He now has the opportunity to achieve the same very thing I did with my time at delta. That’s win a national championship at Delta State as we won in 2000.”

Bonner said before he leaves DSU, his goal is leading the Statesmen to their first Division II national championship since 2000.