Mississippi State's Wade Bonner is currently going through his fourth and final spring practice in Starkville. He's experienced position changes throughout his career and also experienced steady development in his Bulldog career. But what hasn't changed is his mindset every time he takes to the gridiron.
"It's been wonderful this spring," said the 5-foot-10 and 190-pound Bonner. "I am having fun and just taking things one day at a time. I am just trying to get better every day and trying to make the young guys better and be a great leader."
Nearly five years ago, Bonner arrived at Mississippi State and opened his career in the defensive secondary. He redshirted his first season on campus and then moved to running back/kickoff returner the following year. But shortly after MSU head coach Dan Mullen arrived in town, Bonner quickly asked to move back to safety and he's been there ever since.
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"I just love playing football," said Bonner. "It doesn't matter where they put me. I just love playing football and wherever I play has been fine with me. I trust the coaches and know they will put me at the spot I can help the team the most."
Last fall, Bonner began to have a major impact at free safety late in the season and started the last two games. After playing just mostly on special teams, Bonner became one of State's steadiest performers down the stretch. Bonner finished the year with 39 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and also forced two fumbles.
"It is just a grind and college football is a grind," said Bonner. "You just come out here to work hard everyday and try to give the team all you got. That is all I've ever tried to do and that is how you get your reps and snaps."
Bonner also credited last year's increased snaps to his film work off the field.
"Just studying the game and being familiar with the game," said Bonner. "I try to learn something new every single day. You want to get an edge any way you can cause this league is tough and everyone is always trying to get that edge."
These days in spring practice, Bonner noted the Bulldog defensive backs get tested early and often by the new-found depth with the receiving corps.
"Well, at free safety I have to cover the slot guys," said Bonner. "And all of those guys are tough. Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens and Jameon Lewis are all good and are all quick guys. It makes for a good challenge every day we line up and you want that so they can push you in practice."
Yet as they prepare for the fall, Bonner points to the value of State's experience. Bonner and Charles Mitchell are both rising seniors while other faces are also familiar in the secondary.
"We should be good again this year and we have a lot of experience," said Bonner, a Mason, Tenn., native. "We have guys that have been around the SEC block a lot like Charles Mitchell, Damein Anderson, Corey Broomfield, Johnthan Banks, Nickoe Whitley and myself. We have a lot of experience at safety and at corner. So we all expect to have a great season and to be the strong point of the defense."