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Bonnell Thrives As Mentor and Understudy
Release: 11/17/2007
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Nov. 16, 2007

By Nicholas Trost

With over 4,300 yards passing, 43 touchdowns, and leading his team to a 37-4 record, Carl Bonnell proved at Kentwood High School he could play football. Bonnell took his talents to Washington State, where he spent his first three months of college grey-shirting and waiting for a scholarship. He eventually decided to transfer to cross-state rival Washington, where he hoped to win the starting QB job.

But instead he has spent most of his college career as a backup. He has been relegated to being the understudy to first Casey Paus, then Isaiah Stanback and now Jake Locker.

It seemed that Bonnell was left in the dark. Some athletes in his position might get bitter in a similar situation. But not Carl Bonnell. Not this team-first attitude athlete.

Instead, Bonnell has been a positive influence since the first day he put on the Washington uniform. This season, his role has been to help Locker move into his starting job and the redshirt-freshman is grateful to have Bonnell on his side.

"He is not the kind of guy that is trying to sabotage me so that he gets a chance to play," says Locker. "He just wants to win, so he helps me at every opportunity he gets, and I really appreciate having him on the sidelines."

Bonnell and Locker have a relationship that is essential for a starting quarterback and his back up to have. Bonnell plays the role of the veteran tutor sharing his wealth of knowledge to the talented, young up-and-coming star.

"I have been like an older brother to Jake," says Bonnell. "Jake is such a great guy. He is just very gifted and talented as a quarterback and it is fun being with him and helping him along."

Bonnell truly has thrived in his role. For him it is all about the team's success, not all of the fame and whatever else comes with the playing the quarterback position. This attitude has people turning their heads, and not just Locker. Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano has taken note of the great attitude that Bonnell brings with him each and every day.

"He is an awesome kid and he is the epitome of a team player," says Lappano, who also coaches the quarterbacks. "He helps Jake a lot, whether it is film study or on the sidelines. He supports him and that is what it is all about."

Bonnell's positive attitude masks the frustrations that he may have. Bonnell has started seven games during his career, including five games last season, and knows he can still do it at a high level.

But, Locker was named the starter in spring and Bonnell was relegated back to the bench. The time off has allowed him to fully recover from a shoulder injury and he is more than ready to get back out on the field. But yet, he still must wait for his opportunity.

"I felt like I was playing really well (in fall camp)," says Bonnell "I was coming off of my shoulder injury and I was battling and doing my best to get the starting job.

"But, it's Jake's job and the coaches made that pretty clear early on. At first it was frustrating, but my main focus this year has been to have as much fun as possible."

Last Saturday against Oregon State, Bonnell got the chance he wanted, just not under the circumstances that he wanted to get it. Locker was taken off the field by an ambulance in the second quarter after a blow to the helmet, and Bonnell was thrown right back into the fire.

Bonnell entered the game with a 13-0 deficit and with the Huskies in shock after seeing their leader fall. But like a savvy veteran, Bonnell came off the bench to complete 10-of-25 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He almost led the Huskies to a come-from-behind victory, but Oregon State was able to hold on for a 29-23 victory.

If Locker is unable to play in any of the final three games of the season, the Huskies are still in good hands with Bonnell. He proved that in the 2006 Apple Cup, his last career start.

With the Huskies mired in a six-game losing streak, including two frustrating overtime losses at the hands of California and Arizona State, Bonnell went into Pullman and led the Huskies to a 35-32 victory.

"The Washington State win was especially gratifying," says Bonnell about beating his former team. "Being in that position and replacing Isaiah, who was loved by this entire community, I knew that I couldn't really fill his shoes. I really can't do what he can do. We are different types of athletes. I wanted to go out there and play as hard as I can and try to give our chance a team to win."

When given the chance, Bonnell has succeeded. While he may not run like Stanback or Locker, he has shown the propensity for producing big plays.

Last season at California, he forced overtime by completing a 40-yard Hail Mary pass to Marlon Wood in the end zone. Against Washington State, he connected with Cody Ellis for a 64-yard TD and Marcel Reece for a 69-yard score. And last weekend in Corvallis, Bonnell hit Anthony Russo for a 41-yard touchdown and Ellis for an 86-yard score, which is the fourth longest pass play in Husky history.

If it is those moments of glory that cement to Bonnell that waiting in the wings is worthwhile, it is the selfless comment made by Locker last Saturday that cements Bonnell's importance to the Huskies.

Bonnell told the Seattle Times that Locker told him `he felt like he let the team down' after the Huskies had lost to Oregon State. In a personal moment of adversity, Locker instead thought of the team. It is the kind of attitude that Bonnell has exemplified for the last four years. It is the kind of attitude that can help the team, whether it comes from a starter or a back up.

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