Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

No surprise USF's Bonani becomes a star

TAMPA — Maikon Bonani laughs about it, but at every practice for the past six weeks, USF coach Jim Leavitt has walked up to his freshman kicker with the same message: "Be ready. You might just have to kick a game-winning field goal."

"The funniest thing," Bonani said Sunday, two days after he made a 43-yarder as time expired to give now No. 12 USF a 37-34 win against then-No. 13 Kansas. "He said that, I swear to you, every practice. 'Yes, sir, I'm ready.' I knew that it could change, but I wasn't expecting it to."

How unexpected is Bonani's sudden stardom? When the last kick of his first college game hooked inside the right upright, his parents were on a cruise ship leaving Cozumel. When they boarded days earlier, they didn't know their son would be taking over field-goal duties.

His father, Sidney, who got updates during the game from a friend, was still at sea Saturday when he connected with his son. Turning 42 Sunday, Sidney told him it was the best birthday present he could have gotten.

Bonani found out he was taking over on field goals before Wednesday's practice. He called his mother, Marcia, on Thursday night: "Mom, please pray for me," the 19-year-old said. " 'I'm nervous right now. I can't sleep.' "

He missed a few kicks before the game, then sent his first try wide left. But he said the miss relaxed him, and the response from his teammates gave him unexpected confidence.

"I went to the sidelines, and nobody was negative, absolutely nobody," he said. "That was eye-opening. I thought, 'I just shanked a kick,' and everybody's just, 'Keep your head up, we trust you.' It just motivated me even more."

In Lake Wales, his brother, Marcelo, had just gotten home from his high school game when he turned on the TV to see Maikon's final kick. "The craziest curve I've seen in my life," said Marcelo, who played with Maikon last season and talks with him daily.

Bonani was a great story before Friday night. He was born in Brazil and was 11 when his family moved to Lake Wales, where his father still works at the CitroSuco citrus plant on State Road 60.

"I moved here knowing how to say one phrase (in English), and that was, 'I don't speak English,' ''said Bonani, who speaks without an accent. When he spoke to his parents Saturday, the conversation was in their native language, Portuguese. "Quarenta e tres," he said when asked how long his kick was.

Football, like English, was something he picked up late, trying out for the team in the spring of his freshman year at Lake Wales after earning team MVP honors in soccer. He kicked on the junior varsity team as a sophomore, then made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts as a junior, earning All-State honors. He was Polk County player of the year in soccer last fall and was Lake Wales' No. 1 tennis player, helping it finish fifth in the state.

"Anything he does turns to gold," said Robert Kirkner, his soccer coach at Lake Wales. "He can do pretty much anything athletically. I watched him Friday, and I saw the same Maikon: totally focused and calm. He's just a driven kid who loves sports. I think you're just seeing the beginning of him."

Even his name stands out. His mother was a fan of an American TV show in Brazil and liked the name of its charismatic hero, Michael Knight. To this day, Maikon (rhymes with icon) hasn't seen Knight Rider. Joke with him about David Hasselhoff and a talking car, and you get little more than a polite smile.

The kid who learned English at 11 was valedictorian of his senior class. In the day after his winning kick, he picked up 108 friend requests on Facebook.com, but it meant more to him that the first person to congratulate him on the field was Delbert Alvarado, who lost the job after going 1-for-4 in the first two games.

"Delbert is a great kicker," Bonani said. "I don't care what anyone says. I see the guy kick every day at practice. … When we were in the pile (on the field), he was yelling at me, saying congratulations. He's so supportive, a great guy, one of my best friends on the team."

Having celebrated well into Saturday morning, Bonani woke up with that same focus, saying he had to put his piece of USF history in the past.

"It makes me nervous," he said. "Though it was the greatest game of my life, it was just another football game. I have to keep doing my job to help this team. We all have the same goal, to win the Big East. I don't want people thinking, 'Ooh, he's the guy.' I don't want the hype. I just want to keep working hard."

No surprise USF's Bonani becomes a star 09/14/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 21, 2008 7:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. USF defense feeds on Temple offense to take NCAA interceptions lead

    College

    TAMPA — Backed up in his end zone, Temple quarterback Logan Marchi scrambled, trying to elude a USF defensive end coming straight for him. Until then, Marchi hadn't had much luck hitting his receivers.

    South Florida Bulls safety Devin Abraham (20) sacks Temple Owls quarterback Logan Marchi (12) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, September 21, 2017.
  2. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated

    College

    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  3. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

    College

    TAMPA

    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  4. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    The Rays still talk about having a shot to make the playoffs. But recognizing and correcting mistakes will help them next year, such as Mallex Smith trying to steal third in the first. "Those are the little things we've got to find how to eliminate real quick," manager Kevin Cash said.