Every road to the Super Bowl starts somewhere. For some, it’s in major metropolitan schools with huge programs and tons of money. For others, it all start with humble beginnings in a small town. 

Such is the case for Paw Paw resident John Bonamego, who is one of the rare west Michiganders to have one of the most coveted pieces of hardware in all of sports – a Super Bowl Ring. 

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Bonamego has spent a lot of his life surrounded by football. He grew playing as a Paw Paw Redskin (now known as the Red Wolves), and found his way to Central Michigan University where he played quarterback until 1987. 

But Bonamego’s trip to the NFL wouldn’t start straight from college, and it wouldn’t be for PLAYING football, but rather, coaching it. And, strangely enough, his trip to the Super Bowl would come full circle, and take him back to some familiar places. 

Early coaching career 

Bonamego made quick work of his coaching career. He was at Mount Pleasant for one season in 1987, and hired as an assistant from 1988-1998.
In 1999, he got his first opportunity at the NFL.

He spent the next four years as the assistant special teams coach in Jacksonville, before being promoted to Special Teams Coordinator. From there, he became a traveling man around the league, spending 2003-2005 with Green Bay, 2006-2008 with the Saints, then back again in 2011, and then one more run as the special teams coordinator in Miami in 2008. 

Return to Michigan 

Bonamego had bounced around the league, proving he was a valuable asset wherever he went, but had trouble staying put for more than a few years. His trip home to Michigan, in 2013, proved to be a big move for him. He spent time as the Lions Special Teams Coordinator from 2013-2015, and would eventually return in 2019 to coach under Matt Patricia.  

But it’s what he did between those stings with the Lions that really makes his career special. 

Central Michigan v Syracuse
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

He received the call to be a head coach at his old alma mater, Central Michigan, and would return to coach the team that put him on the map, even bring former players with him to be on staff. Sadly, his college coaching days were numbered, and was fired three years later after putting together the worst record in the school’s history. 

But in that defeat, he also claimed one of the biggest victories of his life. 

His battle with Cancer 

Just before he took over coaching duties for the Chippewas, Bonamego was diagnosed with cancer, and would undergo treatments to beat it. He would maintain his role as head coach, and continue to be at meetings and practices, all while fighting cancer in his body. 

And despite the rough record while he was there, Central Michigan rallied behind their coach, and helped pull him through. 

Following his release from CMU, he took another crack at the NFL, first spending that one season with Matt Patricia in 2019 in Detroit, then, finally finding success on the west coast. 

The Super Bowl 

Bonamego was hired on as the Special Teams coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams in 2020. The net season, his role shifted to Senior Coaching Assistant. In 2021, he finally got the massive break he’d been working his entire career for... The Super Bowl. 

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
Getty Images

From his humble beginnings in Paw Paw, to moving around the League, battling through college programs, and even cancer, Bonamego had finally reached the mountain top, and achieved the ultimate goal in football, getting him and the L.A. Rams a Super Bowl Ring in 2021 against the Bengals. 

It’s interesting to look up Bonamego’s Wikipedia page, because normally, somebody who has been in the league as long as he was, has accolades, and awards, and championships galore in their bio. But for him, there are only two that matter – Beating Cancer, and that single solitary “Career Highlights an Awards” section on his Wikipedia Page that says “Super Bowl Champion (LVI).” 

(Source material for this story was taken from at story written in 2022 on WKFR.com.)

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Gallery Credit: Lauren Gordon