For Zeeland East's Tag Bonnema, signing with Western Michigan a 'dream come true'

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Tag Bonnema was among 13 players who signed national letters of intent with Western Michigan on Wednesday.

Bonnema, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker from Zeeland East, earned first-team all-state honors from The News for Division 3-4 teams and is No. 36 on the Blue Chip list.

Tag Bonnema

“He’s really a D-lineman at heart who played linebacker for need on our team,” Zeeland East coach Joe Woodruff said. “I’ve been coaching for 31 years and he might be the best kid I’ve coached from an athletic standpoint and character-wise too. He played tight end, quarterback, just never left the field. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in the Grand Rapids area.”

Bonnema, who also had offers from Cincinnati, Michigan State and Iowa, talked about his decision to play for WMU.

“It’s like a dream come true, something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” Bonnema said. “There’s a lot of factors. Personally, I loved the people there. When I was there, I just felt like it was home. They chose me, right, so it felt like I was wanted.

“It’s close to home and that’s a huge plus. My brother goes there and he kind of gave me the inside scoop on all of the questions that I had, and it just felt like the right fit for me.”

Bonnema’s older brother, Boone, is a red-shirt freshman middle linebacker.

WMU coach Tim Lester recruited Tag Bonnema as a defensive end.

“I started my high school career at middle linebacker next to my brother when I was a freshman and he was a senior,” Bonnema said. “Then, I played D-end my sophomore and junior year, then went back to middle linebacker my senior year.

“Being a linebacker, you’re really the quarterback of the defense. There’s a lot more thinking and yelling to be honest, so you do get to be on every play and that’s fun. Still, I like being a D-end more because you can just go, you don’t have to think, you just play football.”

Bonnema took his official visit this past weekend to WMU and watched practice, enjoyed watching Broncos defensive end Ali Fayad in practice.

Fayad (Dearborn) was named Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The Broncos will play Nevada in the Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field Dec. 27.

“He’s awesome to watch, really fast and hope to have learned a lot from him,” said Bonnema of Fayad.

And, of his visit?

“We just had our official visit, so I was able to become great friends with them (recruits) and know them better, guys like Nate Anderson, he’s a wide receiver, August Johanningsmeier, a tight end, and Isaiah Street, a defensive linemen,” Bonnema said.

“We got to watch their practice and me and Isaiah Street got the chance to watch the D-ends play a little bit, and that was fun. We also got a chance to experience a lot of downtown Kalamazoo and eat at some of the local restaurants.”

Three of the recruits are from Michigan, with three-star Jamal Hailey of Berrien Springs joining Bonnema and Johanningsmeier. Hailey played for former WMU head coach Elliot Uzelac, helping his team to a 10-0 record before a district-final loss.

Johanningsmeier, 6-4 and 225 pounds, rushed for 779 yards (132 carries) and seven TDs for Howell.

“He’s the top player in Livingston County, has the rare combination of size and speed,” Howell coach Brian Lewis said. “He was hard to bring down with one tackler. His season was cut short (due to injuries), but was well on pace for 1,500 yards before being shut down.”

Street is a three-star edge rusher from Brownsburg, Indiana, who had offers from Iowa State and other MAC schools while Anderson is a three-star receiver from Fort Wayne.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com