Andrew Bonnet probably got more satisfaction than most of his North Dakota State teammates last week when the school earned its second straight FCS football championship.
A 6-foot-3, 242-pound redshirt freshman fullback and former Underwood standout, Bonnet played roughly 20 snaps in a 39-13 pounding of Sam Houston State last Saturday.
That performance capped a productive freshman season for Bonnet. He appeared in all 15 games with two starts for the Bison (14-1) at fullback and tight end and had 11 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Both years Bonnet has been on the NDSU campus, the season has ended with a championship. But last Saturday’s win was special. This time, Bonnet can say he contributed to bringing it back to Fargo.
Almost a year ago to the day, Bonnet felt mixed emotions on that same Frisco, Texas, field.
In the midst of a redshirt season, he was in town to support his teammates as they earned a 17-6 victory over the same Sam Houston State squad they would defeat a year later.
Bonnet was happy for his teammates and school. But he was in no way satisfied.
“After we won it, I could tell I didn’t have the same feeling as everyone else on the team, at least everyone that played,” he said. “I really felt like I wanted to be on the field. It actually motivated me to play through the next year. To do what the guys that played the year before did.”
Bonnet had the physical tools necessary to play as a true freshman. He arrived on campus in 2011 at about 230 pounds.
But coaches felt that he could benefit from sitting out a year and learning the finer points of the college game.
“He was physically ready to go,” NDSU Special Teams/Tight Ends/Fullbacks coach Tim Polasek said. “But maturing and learning how to work and how important each rep each day is are the things that he did a lot better job at the end of the year in comparison to the start of the fall.
“He’s truly a kid that benefited from us being deep in the playoffs, from us practicing the way we practice and just showing great attention to detail and getting better. He’s got a ways to go, but if he can do the next steps, the future really is unlimited for him.”
Bonnet’s coaches trusted him enough to play him in every game during his redshirt freshman season. His numbers might not jump off the stat sheet, but he was an important component of an offense that amassed 3,303 yards rushing.
The Underwood grad has held himself to a high standard.
“Really, I expected to be splitting time with our starter,” he said. “That didn’t exactly happen. I did get a fair amount of reps playing, but they were switching me around at the beginning of fall camp playing tight end and fullback. I knew I’d play both during the season, and playing tight end gave me more of an opportunity to get on the field.”
His coaches say he turned the corner as a player in the second half of the season.
“He’s a special athlete,” Polasek said. “He does some pretty remarkable things. Really, the thing he’s gotten better at in the last eight weeks is the understanding of how fast college football happens out there. He’s reacting and handling situations that might not always be presented to him in meetings. He’s got great upside.”
Despite that high praise and work ethic, his choices out of high school were limited. He wanted to go to a larger college, and it ultimately came down to either attending NDSU or walking on at Iowa State.
He’s happy with his choice.
“I’m glad I ended up coming here,” Bonnet said. “It’s been a really good decision.”