by Fran Stuchbury
April 12, 2016 - Arena Football League (AFL)
OurSports Central contributor Fran Stuchbury spoke to CBS Sports Network Arena Football League Color Commentator Sherdrick Bonner following the Jacksonville Sharks' 59-41 victory over the Philadelphia Soul at the Wells Fargo Center at Philadelphia. Bonner played 15 seasons with the Arizona Rattlers (1993-2007) and one season with the Chicago Rush (2008). Over that time he passed for 42,246 yards with 855 touchdowns and 124 interceptions. He won two ArenaBowl Championships with Arizona and was named MVP of ArenaBowl VIII. In 2011 he became the Chicago Rush offensive coordinator, and in 2012 Bonner joined the AFL Hall of Fame. He has been an analyst with CBS Sports Network since 2013 and has been working with ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain since 2009.
Fran Stuchbury: What is your take on the Jacksonville Sharks bouncing back with a big victory after losing on the road to the Los Angeles KISS 64-39 the first week of the AFL season?
Sherdrick Bonner: They did an excellent job in the second half, really just playing as clean offensively as possible. On defense they didn't really blow any coverages and didn't make the mistakes they made week one. Communication seemed much better; they did an outstanding job and their kicker Marco Capozzoli did a great job kicking the ball, going 8 for 8 on PATs and making a 26-yard field goal as well.
FS: With the AFL decreasing its teams from 12 last season to 8 this season, will the level of play be higher?
SB: I think the talent pool has shrunk because fewer teams, however, all the players on the teams area really good players. I think it's going to continue to build and get better. One big thing is that a lot of players are in new homes; that is why we have seen blowouts in some of these games. New faces in new places, players not use to playing with different people on a few teams, so it's going take a little time to get acclimated.
FS: Even though the AFL is entering its 29th season, do you feel you still need to explain rules to any fans who are watching it for the first time on television so they know the nuances of the game?
SB: Yes, so the fans will understand the AFL in the proper way. Certain things they will say, "Why don't players just run out of bounds or take a knee to end the game?" stuff like that. You need to explain and really help them understand how the timing rules affect things, how the rebound nets affect things, the things that make our game unique.
FS: You played Arena Football when some players were Ironman, playing both offense and defense including your former teammate WR/DB AFL Hall of Famer Randy Gatewood, one of the best Ironman players in AFL history. Would you like to see the AFL go back to that or can the AFL players not play at that level?
SB: AFL players could play Ironman football; they are just as good athletes. I am a purist so I would love to see Ironman football; that's the way I was brought up in the game and that is the way the game is at in its pure form. Every player has played high school football when you played a little offense and defense and see players grinding it at both sides. We still have a few of those guys: Philadelphia Soul FB/LB Jeramie Richardson and Jacksonville Sharks WR/DB David Hyland. Cornelius Lewis played both OL/DL for the Sharks tonight. You see guys that have that ability to play both sides of the ball with the Ironman way of football.
FS: How did you get involved with broadcasting for Root Sports Rocky Mountain back in 2009?
SB: When I was in Arizona I started doing live high school football games back for Cox Communications from 2001 to 2005. It kind of just helped it along. Broadcasting Arena Football games helped me grow as an announcer, and it is something I am so passionate about that I love. If I can do this the rest of my life I would. I love this.
FS: Has broadcasting Arena Football helped you with broadcasting college football games because the speed of AFL games must make the speed of college football games much slower for you?
SB: It does, it gives me a little bit more time to break down college football games I broadcast. You also have more things to be concerned with tackle to tackle on both sides; you got more players out there. You have to share a lot more information with 90 plus players on each college football team roster. There are some challenges, but its fun; its still the sweet game of football.
FS: Would you ever want to get back involved in the AFL in coaching if the right opportunity came along?
SB: I got a soon-to-be five-year-old and eight-year-old boys. I am gone weekends and with the boys during the week. I need to be with them. Maybe when they are a little bit older but right now I love being home seeing my boys grow.
FS: Where do you see Arena Football a couple of seasons from now?
SB: I don't care if there are 12 teams, 16 teams, I just want it to continue to grow in the right way so it's sturdy, it's strong and it can last. Getting the right owners is what will help the AFL. Ted Leonsis in Washington, DC, is a huge plus for this league. Those are the kind of owners like the Philadelphia Soul's Ron Jaworski and his group here. Those are the kind of owners you want to see in this league because that brings stability and they are trying to build it the right way. I want to see it continue to build.
Images from this story
Fran Stuchbury and Sherdrick Bonner