The Detroit Lions have a new special teams coordinator in John Bonamego. Bonamego held the same role with the team in 2013 and 2014 before leaving to take a head coaching job at Central Michigan University.
Bonamego’s return to Detroit reunites him with Detroit’s special teams trio – punter Sam Martin, kicker Matt Prater and long snapper Don Muhlbach – who are very familiar with their new coach.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Martin told detroitlions.com at the Pro Bowl. “Bono drafted me in 2013, so me and Bono stayed in touch and have been close ever since he drafted me. I stayed in touch with him while he was up at Central. I was happy to hear it.”
Martin enjoyed some of his better seasons under Bonamego to begin his career. He averaged over 46.0 yards per punt and had a net punting average over 40.0 in his first two seasons in the league under Bonamego’s tutelage.
“My first two years in the league when I was trying to learn the ways and everything, he was my mentor,” Martin said. “The foundation of starting my NFL career was with Bono. It lets me get back to what I know. We speak the same language and mesh well.”
Detroit’s special teams tied for 15th under Bonamego in Rick Gosselin's annual special teams rankings in 2014, his last season with the team.
That was also the year the Lions signed Prater, who’s become a staple in Detroit and one of the league’s most consistent kickers.
Muhlbach, fresh off his second career Pro Bowl appearance last week, is also very familiar with Bonamego’s coaching style and schemes.
“I’ve talked to Sam and Matt about it and we’re excited,” Muhlbach told detroitlions.com at the Pro Bowl. “It’s one less thing for him to worry about as he gets started.”
It’s the familiarity a lot of the players on special teams have with Bonamego, and Bonamego’s understanding of their skill sets, that makes Martin believe Detroit’s specialists will hit the ground running when the offseason training program begins.
“That’s the last thing he said to me when I talked to him, ‘The gang’s back together,’” Martin said. “The four of us have a little bit of rapport. I know from when I was with Bono before that he’s a players’ coach. He brings the best out of you. That’s one of the biggest things I love about Bono. I know he demands the best from me and knows how to get it out of me.”
View team photographer Gavin Smith’s best stylized photos of the Detroit Lions' special teams from the 2018 season.