Oct. 22, 2010
By Patrick T. Walsh,
From being coached by his father to coaching others and from wanting to attend Louisiana Tech to wanting protégés to attend Louisiana Tech, Chris Boniol's career has almost come full circle.
After signing with the Dallas Cowboys in 1994 as an undrafted free agent, Boniol proved to be one of the most accurate and consistent kickers in the NFL, becoming the first player in Cowboys history to record three consecutive 100-point seasons.
Following his professional career in which he won a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys and played six seasons in the NFL, Boniol began hosting camps and clinics for young kickers across the country.
Boniol first got into working camps after he returned back to his native Alexandria at the conclusion of his professional career, working with kids back in his home town.
"It is something I enjoy doing," Boniol explained. "My dad was a coach and it is part of who my family is. Once I got into that, it involved into a summer thing and then a couple of years later, it became a full-time project. I enjoy the traveling and holding clinics across the country."
As time progressed, the long days of hosting camps in June and July began to wear on him and Boniol began to shift his focus.
"I am starting to get a little older - I'm not old by any means - but the days of being on the field from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. are starting to take a much bigger toll, especially in June and July," Boniol said. "The last few years, I have been getting into team coaching. I am evolving where I am still doing camps and 1-on-1 sessions, but I am backing down from the day-after-day workload and getting more into the special teams aspect. It was more of a physical necessity than anything."
However, that physical necessity as led Boniol into another career opportunity as he is now a kicking consultant for the Cowboys, getting his professional coaching start with the same organization that gave him his first professional kicking opportunity.
"I started with the Cowboys in March, working with the kickers," Boniol explained. "They brought me in to help a young kicker develop who has a real good leg but he needed to learn the technical aspects of kicking. So far it has gone well and he has responded to it. Lately, it has evolved into helping the special teams coach game plan. It is a lot of film work and game plan preparation."
Working with kids and holding camps is what first got Boniol into the teaching and coaching aspect of the game.
"As a player, you grow up going to camps, learning and studying. Plenty of kids go to sports camps because their parents sign them up, but every once in a while you have a kid that cares about every ball that goes and he is going to invest. Learning, investing and studying.
It was hosting those camps and clinics that he found one of those kids that cares about the details of kicking, current Tech kicker Matt Nelson.
"Matt [Nelson] and I have been working together since early in his high school career," Boniol said. "He's always been a hard worker, not a big kid but has had a good leg. His leg is bigger than him, that's for sure. I liked being around him because he shared the same passion for kicking that I did. Everything he has ever learned - he has taken everything I have given him and applied it. He has jumped in with two feet and given his best shot over the last five years. He will have a great career because of the work he has put in."
Boniol was the first to tell Nelson about the opportunity awaiting him at Louisiana Tech.
"When he [Nelson] was coming out of high school, I was going to work a Derek Dooley camp. The coaches had a list of five to six guys they were watching at the time. I told Matt that he needed to get up to that camp. I told him that they were looking for a kicker, that I knew some of the kids and that he could kick with - and even outkick - most of them."
Boniol still talks to and mentors Nelson on a regular basis.
"I have had a good relationship with Chris starting off," said Nelson. "My freshman year of high school, I googled kicking camps and his came up. I just kept going to his camp every year. Then my junior year, he said he was running the Louisiana Tech camp and that was where he went to school. He told me I had a really good chance of doing well there so I came out [to the camp] and the coaches ended up offering a scholarship to me. I have just kept working with him ever since."
The two will exchange e-mails, text messages, voice mails and the occasional phone call throughout the year.
"Matt needs to continue to strive for perfection and needs some over 50-yard kicks to go in," Boniol explained. "What will help him is hitting a game-winner if he gets a chance. That is what really solidifies anyone is hitting one of those kicks when the game is on the line. The drama and the excitement, that goes a long way right there. He has the tools, just like anyone else he has to have the opportunity presented to him and then he needs to capitalize."
An Alexandria native, Boniol first came to Louisiana Tech in 1990 and quickly became the go-to guy in Tech's kicking game. Following the 1990 season, Boniol was named all-Louisiana and the Louisiana Freshman of the Year after hitting 17-of-24 field goals and 38-of-39 extra points.
His most memorable game came the next year when Tech played at Eastern Michigan in his sophomore year of 1991.
"My best memory in kicking for Tech was when we went up to play at Eastern Michigan and I hit a 54-yarder to win the game," recalled Boniol. "Another was against Baylor when I kicked the game winner. Those were two exciting, thrilling finishes. I just remember the celebration for our team, running around the field. I was ecstatic how excited every single individual was and that is what made it special. That's what made it an amazing time."
Following four years of success, Boniol left Tech with a career that will forever be known as one of the best kickers in school history.