Lake Wales graduate Maikon Bonani is back in the NFL,and might be the leading contender to be the starting place kicker for the Tennessee Titans this year.
The 2007 Lake Wales High School graduate is considered the front runner to replace Rob Bironas, the Titan’s place kicker for the last several years, who was cut during the offseason. He had been the Tennessee place kicker since 2005.
Bonani first signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent on May 10, 2013, following a successful kicking career at the University of South Florida.
He was in camp with the Titans last fall, but was cut from the team on Aug. 26. He re-signed with the Titans on Jan. 4 of this year.
Right now, the Titans only have two kickers in camp, Bonani and undrafted rookie Travis Coons, from the University of Washington.
“He’s been good,” Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt said of Bonani in a May 19 article published in The Tennesseean. “The one time he kicked in the last minicamp, he kicked well. It was a stiff wind and he did well.”
Bonani became USF’s all time leading scorer with 319 points, and set school records in field goal attempts, field goals made and field goal percentage (75.8). In his career, interrupted by a back injury suffered while working a gondola ride at Busch Gardens, he made 69-of-91 field goal attempts for the Bulls.
He was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and moved to Lake Wales with his family when he was 11.
As a Highlander, he was a first-team Class 3A All-State kicker his junior season, and also second team as a senior. He also excelled in tennis and soccer, earning a varsity letter for three years and four years, respectively, in those sports.
He was a Big East All-Academic Team selection as well in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
His brother, Marcelo, also kicked for the Highlanders after Maikon graduated.
Although the Titans have only the two kickers in camp, it is possible they could also add a veteran leg during the preseason, Whisenhunt noted.
“You’re always going to look (at options), but you are going to give them (Bonani and Coons) an opportunity to compete and if you feel comfortable with them, that’s the direction you can go,” Whisenhunt said. “But I think there will be opportunities potentially for veteran guys, too, if we feel like we need that.”