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Football: Injury fails to cool off Bonds' appeal

The brief respite Richland Northeast coach Jay Frye got after Chris Bonds tore his ACL last year was just that — brief.

The college recruiters beat his star defensive end in getting back up to speed. Their interest, Frye said, did not flicker.

“Not at all. He’s got offers from ... I think I counted 36 schools in here,” Frye said last week while he put his 2008-09 squad through spring drills. “All of them had offers for him, but we’ve got some other kids that a lot of schools are interested in as well: Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Tennessee, South Carolina — you name it. They’ve been here all spring.”

Bonds was out for the season following the injury to his left knee against Dutch Fork. He underwent surgery shortly after he went down against the Silver Foxes, but, according to the 6-foot-four, 275-pounder, it is so far, so good.

“It’s about 80 percent right now; the only thing missing now is the strength,” Bonds said. “Being off my leg for three months really killed my strength.

“The stability is there, the tightness, you know, in the knee, is there. The 20 percent is just the strength.”

Bonds said the injury, as is sometimes the case with an ACL tear, was not the result of a hit.

“It was a pass play and I came around the outside to swim, and I just fell over,” Bonds said. “Coach Frye wouldn’t let me watch the film, because he said the way I fell was real nasty.

“It was one of those freak things, and that’s what really bothered me the most: There was nothing I could do about it.”

The rehab has gone well, Bonds said, and he expects to be back up to speed by fall drills. In the meantime, he’s wringing every drop he can out of the experience of being a hotly recruited athlete.

“For the most part, it isn’t (a distraction),” he said. “My parents raised me right. I’m not one of those big-headed, cocky types of people. I don’t flaunt what I have, and I appreciate what I have. I appreciate what my parents do for me.

“I have worked hard to get my knee back in shape so my parents don’t have to pay for my college. Nowadays that’s a big thing.”

As for college, Bonds is trying to keep an open mind, because he wants a good look at every offer before he makes a decision about where he’d like to go.

“Mostly, it’s where I’ll feel comfortable,” he said. “... There are some places I haven’t been, and when you have an opportunity like this, I’d like to seize it.

“I’d like to go see Michigan and Notre Dame. Even if I don’t go play there, I’d like to be able to tell my kids one day that I at least went there.”

Bonds went to South Carolina as an unofficial visit, saving his official ones for places like Southern Cal, Alabama and those two “Northern” schools.

“Here (USC), Southern Cal and Alabama were three of the best places I’ve visited,” he said. “The schools I wanted to visit are technical schools like Georgia Tech, that still have good football. But definitely Michigan and Notre Dame. Those are the two I’m anxious to visit.”

Meanwhile, while Bonds looks for that final 20 percent, Frye feels like he’s just finished a set of wind sprints.

“It’s an honor for your school and your program, but it can be a bit distracting at times, when you have to get kids out of class, or if I’m in the middle of doing something,” Frye said. “But it beats not having them in here.

“It’s just that you can’t get much done with eight schools in here on one day. There have been times when I’ve had four or five different schools in the office at one time, and it’s tough when you’re trying to talk about one kid and another kid and you feel like you ignore one school to talk to another.”

On the other hand, it’s not like Frye hasn’t had practice. He ticked off a list of Cavaliers who have gone on to bigger and better things: Mark Barnes and Rodney Paulk (South Carolina), Gary Gray (Notre Dame), Calvin Harrison (Kentucky) and Adam Patterson (Michigan.)

Bonds, he said, is at that level.

“We’ve had a few the last four or five years who have drawn a lot of interest,” Frye said. “Mark and Gary had offers from a lot of people, but this (Bonds) is as much as anybody’s had.”

Reach McLaurin at (803) 240-3514.