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From the Bench: Next Chapters in Dante Bonamico's Life Unfolding and May Shape Professional Future

By Jeff Toquinto on June 20, 2021 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

The last time anyone saw Dante Bonamico on a football field in a true game setting was Dec. 31, 2020. On that day, he played his final game as a defensive back from West Virginia University in its 24-21 win against Army in the Liberty Bowl.
 
Although Bonamico, like all other seniors due to COVID-19, had the option to play yet another year, he opted against it. And he opted against after playing the best game of his WVU career, finishing third in tackles with 10.
 
That, it seemed, closed the book on the football career for the 2016 Bridgeport High School graduate. As it turns out, there is already a new chapter – and there may be more.
 
The playing days that date back to his time with Bridgeport Youth Football are over. The coaching days, however, have just begun.
 
For those that do not know, Bonamico is the full-time defensive quality control Coach at Fairmont State University. He is on the staff of Jason Woodman for the Falcons.
 
Before talking about the future, perhaps some may want to know what the job entails, myself included.
 
“I work with the (defensive backs) mainly. We have a defensive backs coach. He works specially with them and focuses on the corners, and I focus in on the safeties,” said Bonamico. “As for the quality control part, I get to break down all of the game film and put in information and plays, the alignments teams run out of and break down statistically the categories of plays from certain formations.”
 
In other words, if a team lines up in an RPO – run, pass option – Bonamico’s work will show whether how the opposition lines up will help determine the possibility of whether the team will run or pass.
 
“The things I handle in the background goes into decisions made on game days, often as it happens,” said Bonamico. “I also implement stuff from breaking down the film into practice as well and putting in calls and signals as a result.”
 
Ten minutes into the conversation it did not take any expert analysis to tell Bonamico was on the job like he was when he play the game – all in. The only thing questionable was a few months earlier, after wrapping up his playing days, was not certain if coaching was for him.
 
While the decision to make coaching a career is still up in the air, the fact he made the decision is a result of watching his former boss, WVU Coach Neal Brown, and getting an opportunity close to Bridgeport.
 
“That’s a big reason for taking this position. It’s close to home and I get to see the coaching world and see if this is what I want to do,” he said. “It will take a full year under my belt, at least, to see if this is for me, but there’s are part of me that wants to pursue this.”
 
Bonamico said the idea to coach was not something that he has always thought about. Instead, it was a late process in his career.
 
“You can say it was Coach Brown and his staff and seeing the family culture he created just by how he did things,” said Bonamico. “I watched him with his three kids and his wife and how he balanced it. It made me appreciate the business in seeing how he handled it.”
 
What was important about Brown spending time with his wife and kids?
 
“I’m a big family guy and have a girlfriend that will some day become a wife,” said Bonamico. “I never thought you could be big into family and still coach.”
 
That was not the case early in his time at WVU.
 
“Early in my career I saw the different side of college football. I saw the coaches getting there every day at 6 a.m. and not leaving until 11 at night or later. Where do you make time for family friends? How do you live a life? Coach Brown showed me you have balance after seeing both sides of it,” said Bonamico. “Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with either side and you have success and make an impact both ways. I just didn’t see the other way until Coach Brown got there.”
 
Ironically, when Bonamico hinted to Brown he was getting a bit of the coaching bug, the conversations began. He knew getting on at the WVU staff would be difficult, even as a Graduate Assistant, right way, but he said Brown was “very helpful” in the process of getting him his first line of work.
 
That does not mean he would not like to return to Morgantown if he opts to go this route. His goal is to get back to the FBS, or Division I, level.
 
“I’d eventually like to get back to the Division I level. I don’t want to say I’m spoiled by getting the chance to play there, but I saw that atmosphere at that level of football and the talent,” said Bonamico, who graduate from WVU with a BA in sports management. “You hate to use the term addicting, but it was. Being in front of 70,000 people and having a situation like an entire state backing you up is hard to pass up as an option on this career path.”
 
Eventually, Bonamico said if he stays in the profession, he knows having a master’s degree is key component for advancement. And he knows where he hopes to do that.
 
“That’s when you have to get a graduate assistant spot, and I’d love to do that in Morgantown,” said Bonamico. “I’m still early enough in my life where I can figure out where I’m going. Being at Fairmont, just up the road, allows me to have that home life and family life that has to be part of my future. I love the game, and I want to see if I can find a fit that I saw with Coach Brown.”
 
Although Bonamico was on the Fairmont staff in what should have been a spring of 2021 season due to COVID, the season for the Falcons never happened – due to COVID. Instead, he was involved in some practices and a spring game. Now, he is ready for the real thing.
 
“I’m looking forward to it. Whether it’s permanent or not, I’m giving it my all,” said Bonamico. “That’s what you do no matter what position you have on the football field.”
 
While some things remain uncertain, giving his all is a certainty. That is going to be the case no matter what the remaining chapters of Bonamico’s life contain.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo of Dante Bonamico on the sidelines at Fairmont State courtesy of Dante Bonamico. WVU photos courtes of WVU Sports Communications, Ben Queen of Ben Queen Photography, and Joe McNemar. Bottom photo shows Dante Bonamico working with youth at The Bridgeport Sports Complex in Bridgeport this past week.


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