Note: The following appears in the Wake Forest gameday football program.
MK Bonamy knows she has one year, and one year only, to compete for the Tigers, but the infielder hopes to leave an everlasting impact on Clemson’s newest program, slated to begin its inaugural season in February.
The graduate transfer from Notre Dame is one of two Tigers on the 2020 roster with one year of eligibility remaining. Bonamy brings vast experience, including in the ACC, to a young clubhouse that currently features 12 players who have not played a college game.
However, in addition to her softball experience, she also has the privilege to lean on something not many can…her cherished relationship with one of the most successful coaches in the nation, Dabo Swinney, who also happens to be her Godfather.
“I’ve been ‘Uncle Bo’ her whole life,” said Swinney. “She’s never known me as anything else. Somewhere along the line, David (Bonamy) asked me if I would be her Godfather. That was a big honor for me to assume that role.”
Swinney and Bonamy’s father were teammates and walk-on wideouts at Alabama. The Swinneys and Bonamys typically enjoy an annual summer vacation in Florida together, a place where their relationship has grown over the years to the extent that Bonamy considers them family.
“I’m really close with Kathleen (Swinney) and the boys (Will, Drew, Clay), so I see them a few times a week. It’s refreshing having family that I can be with all the time, because I’ve realized that I’m a homebody, but it took me going away to appreciate and realize that.”
Bonamy moved to Clemson in August to join her new team, and it has felt like home ever since. In addition to being closer to her immediate family, the Swinneys and other relationships she has developed, she is thriving under Head Coach John Rittman and his staff while growing with her new teammates.
“The team has been awesome. They’ve been accepting of me, and we’re all accepting of each other. Coach Rittman, Courtney (Breault) and ‘K.J.’ (Kyle Jamieson), they’ve all been awesome. They have made me feel so welcomed. Everything is so easy and natural.”
However, there was once a point when Bonamy was uncertain that her softball career would continue after her tenure at Notre Dame. She had considered hanging her cleats up for good, but after finding out Clemson was launching a softball program, she wanted to be sure Rittman and his staff would be the right fit for her while also successfully balancing her graduate studies. So, Bonamy came to Clemson for an official visit, and ‘Uncle Bo’ even accompanied her.
“When she met with Coach Rittman and the staff, and she had a chance to see the facility, hear their vision, their philosophy and all what they wanted to do, that love that she had for the game was re-instilled in her,” stated Swinney.
After making the decision to transfer to Clemson, Bonamy knew she would be one of the few veterans on the team, and she has embraced that leadership role. When pondering how she could make an impact as a leader, the Hoover, Ala. native borrowed a renowned phrase from her Godfather.
“I always think about setting the standard, setting the standard to what it should be because I’m gone in a year. Ansley (Gilstrap) is also gone in a year, so it is important to set the standard to the highest possible way that we can, just like how football has with, ‘best is the standard’.”
Bonamy and the Tigers recently completed their first fall season, which featured six scrimmages across the Upstate area and on the campus of North Georgia. Upon the completion of the Clemson Softball Stadium, the Tigers will take to their home field for the first time in early February.
She knows she will have plenty of support from family and friends in the stands this season, including from her two-time national champion Godfather who wants to see her make the most of her final year on the diamond.
“My advice to her is to enjoy the journey and be committed to being the very best,” added Swinney. “This is her last year of softball. She’s been a really good player. I hope she enjoys all of it and makes an impact on her new locker room and the young players that are in the program, because she knows the way it should be.”