Quarterback Christoph Bono creates his own sports identity
Printed across the back of his sweat-stained green jersey, the bold “13″ gleams under the lights that flood the Palo Alto High School football field. Starting varsity quarterback Christoph Bono (’11) stands on the sideline listening carefully to the advice of head coach Earl Hansen. It’s Friday night and the long awaited first game of the Paly football season is here.
The “13″ that Christoph wears is the same number his father, Steve Bono, wore as a quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburg Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams. More importantly, however, the “13″ is a symbol for their support of one another and a link that brings the Bono family together.
“I had kind of told him, ‘Hey, you didn’t have to [pick "13"],” Steve said. “I told him I liked the way number seven looked on him last year, but he said ‘No, I want to do it.’ That’s fine, it has always been a big number in our family.”
The number, the name and the position are all too familiar, but now, everyone’s eyes are on Christoph, not his father.
Since he was young, Christoph has grown up in the locker room, living in the shadow of his dad, the famous NFL quarterback. Finally, as a starter for the Paly team, he has the chance to be a leader for the squad, all while exceeding his family’s and community’s expectations for him as a player and as a person.
The son of an NFL quarterback faces immense pressure and expectations. These expectations are even greater when the father was not only an NFL quarterback, but also has won a Super Bowl, participated in a Pro Bowl and played with the likes of football greats Joe Montana and Steve Young. Some might expect the son in this position to avoid comparison by following a different path in life, but Christoph has embraced the opposite. Beginning as a Pop Warner player for the Palo Alto Knights in seventh grade, Christoph made the decision to play football on his own.
“I never pushed him and said you need to do Pop Warner at this time,” Steve said. “If he asked about doing it, which he did, I said yeah, so he kind of picked it up on his own.”
As Paly’s wide receiver and quarterback coach, Steve has the chance to mentor, coach and push Christoph to achieve his full potential. But off the football field, Steve’s job as a parent is more important.
“My role is being a dad, being a coach, and trying not to screw him up,” Steve said.
As the son of a famous football, Christoph feels the enormous weight to succeed.
“I try not to think about [the pressure],” Christoph said. “It’s there a little bit, but that should be the last thing on my mind. Just focus on what we need to do to win, and if I don’t there aren’t really any expectations for me.”
Not only is there an inherent pressure to play football, but also to excel in the sport. As a sophomore who played on the junior varsity team last year, Christoph had his work cut out for him to secure a starting spot on varsity.
“I probably would have been a little disappointed with myself [if I didn't get the spot],” Christoph said. “But, I’m sure my dad would have told me to keep my head up and to keep fighting to try and get the job done.”
Steve realizes the pressure he has inadvertently put on his son.
“He probably does feel it a little bit,” Steve said. “But I don’t think that he would admit it. I think that he enjoys playing and he is having fun doing it.”
At 6’2″ and weighing in at 155 pounds, Christoph certainly is not the biggest player on the field, but his position as the engineer of the team’s offense could not be more important.
“He’s got a good arm,” Archbishop Mitty assistant football coach Greg Saenz said after Paly’s game against Mitty. “He’s obviously young and he’s got some learning to do, but I think he is capable.”
With all the tools to succeed, Christoph has the potential to be one of Paly’s best quarterbacks.
“He’s good,” last year’s Paly quarterback Will Brandin (’09) said. “Once his body matures he could definitely play division one football. He has a lot of talent, and he has one of the best coaches you can possibly have in his dad.”
Christoph not only has the raw skill, but also a calm playing style that mirrors his quiet demeanor.
“He never seems to get rattled, nothing ever bothers him,” Paly teacher and football announcer Mike McNulty said. “I remember seeing him play last year in the Wilcox game and they were way behind in the fourth quarter and all the sudden he’s doing this and he’s doing that and he kicks the game winning field goal with no time left on the clock. It wasn’t easy, either, at about 35-40 yards. He is really good under pressure…and he is completely under control.”
In addition to football, Christoph plays basketball and baseball for Paly. He is unsure of which sport he would continue were he forced to choose.
“I can’t decide because baseball is my favorite sport, but I like football a lot,”
Christoph said. “If I could, I would like to play both. But in the end I would probably have to make a decision and I don’t know what I would decide.”
While Steve loves to see Christoph play football, he has always loved watching him play his other love, baseball.
“Personally, I’d love to see him play baseball, something I’ve always loved doing myself,” Steve said. “You just never know. You have to follow your dreams and enjoy competing and have fun with it everyday”.
Steve played catcher for a year at UCLA while not playing football.
To balance the pressure to excel, Christoph enjoys participating in activities besides sports that allow him to express himself off the field.
“I think he really enjoys baseball more than football and wants to play that,” sister and junior varsity volleyball player Sophia Bono (’13) said. “But he also really likes engineering and auto – stuff like that. It’s not all about sports.”
According to best friends, baseball player Graham Marchant (’11) and varsity football and baseball player T.J. Braff (’11), Christoph enjoys hanging out with his friends to unwind.
“He loves snowboarding, movies and has many hobbies,” Marchant said. “Someday he might even like to coach a football, baseball or basketball team.”
Christoph’s success on the football field, the baseball diamond, the gym floor and the classroom can be attributed to the constant support of his mom, dad, sister and the “13″ that illustrates their loyalty to each other.
“We’re Christian and Jesus and his 12 disciples makes 13.” Christoph said. “It is my dad’s lucky number. I like to wear 13 and I am glad to have it this year.”
Whether they are attending each other’s games, picking the number 13 or discussing the latest great play, the Bono family has shown a level of support for each other that correlates to the amount of success they have had and will continue having in all aspects of their lives.
Returning to the huddle, Christoph faces the team. He calls a play that he and his teammates have run countless times during practice. After nodding, they break. In position, Christoph focuses as he squats behind center Marco Scola (’10). At this second, everything he has worked toward, everything that is expected of him, falls on his shoulders. He takes one last moment to gather himself.
“White 43, White 43, set, hut!” Christoph shouts from the crowd of the offensive line.
He takes the snap and drops back from the chaos. Surveying the field, he spots wide receiver Davante Adams (’11), who beats his player down the field and jockeys for position in the end zone. It is one of his longest throws yet, but he launches the ball perfectly. Spiraling, it floats high against the black and purple sky before falling into Adams’ outstretched arms. Touchdown.
Looking on from the home bleachers, mother Tina Bono cheers loudly as Christoph sets up to try for the extra point following a quick celebration with his teammates. Among the same crowd is sister Sophia Bono sporting Christoph’s away jersey, the same “13″ shining brightly under the lights. And from the sideline, Steve watches proudly as his son kicks the ball through the uprights to give Paly the lead. Tonight, the whole family has come out to support Christoph, as he pours all his effort into the task before him; in the sport they all love, through the number that they all cherish. The one that brings them all together.
Christoph Bono (’11) suffered a broken clavicle after a hard hit from a Gunn football player Friday Oct. 9th in Paly’s 27-7 romp at Gunn. Bono could be out of action for as long as four to five weeks. Prior to the injury in the match up against Gunn, Bono had completed seven of seven passes on the night. On his next pass attempt he threw for an interception at the Gunn goal line before sitting out for the rest of the game with his shoulder wrapped, waiting for assessment. T.J. Braff (’11) stepped in at quarterback and Joc Pederson (’10) at kicker for the injured Bono.