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Coming home


MOBILE, Ala. – For John Bonamego, this wasn't CoachSpeak. It wasn't even close.

There also was more than a little irony that when Bonamego spoke to the Jacksonville media late Monday afternoon at Fairhope High School, he did it wearing a New Orleans Saints windbreaker with the logo blacked out.

The irony?

The only team in his heart at that moment was the Jaguars.

"It's wonderful," Bonamego said following a practice for the 2012 Senior Bowl, which will be held at Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ladd-Peeples Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

"It's coming home. It's great. It really truly is."

Bonamego, 48, was hired by Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey as the Jaguars' special teams coach last Friday, but it's not remotely right to call him a new Jaguars coach.

Bonamego, a 26-year coaching veteran, has a lengthy NFL resume:

*Three seasons as Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator, 2003-2005.

*Two seasons as New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator, 2006-2007.

*Three seasons as Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator, 2008-2010.

But Bonamego, who spent last season as special teams assistant in New Orleans, said the first four seasons of his NFL career were special—maybe the most special. They were different because they also were ones he spent in Jacksonville working for Head Coach Tom Coughlin and for owners Wayne and Delores Weaver.

 "We left Jacksonville in 2002, but Jacksonville never really left us," Bonamego, whose two sons were born in Jacksonville, said. "It's just really great to be back."

Bonamego paused as he spoke Monday, choking up a bit.

"How often in this business, especially in this league, do you ever get to come back home?" he said.

Bonamego said in a sense the past week has been just that – a homecoming.

Bonamego said he was at his desk last week doing end-of-season player evaluations around 1:30 in the afternoon when Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis walked into his office to tell him the Jaguars had requested permission to interview him.

Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith called an hour later and at 7 p.m. that evening, he was on a flight to Jacksonville.

"It's not very often you go on an interview and you actually get to sleep at home in your own bed, and wake up and make breakfast for your kids, drop them off at school and have your wife drop you off at the stadium for the interview," he said.

He added, "It was pretty special."

Bonamego said his excitement over the job has to do with more than location. He said although he didn't know Mularkey until last week, he got a good feeling from the interview process, and like many Jaguars coaches interviewed in recent days, he spoke of an energy around the franchise.

"There's a sense of commitment there," he said. "It's hard to draw parallels, but the last time I really felt like this was when I was packing my stuff to go with Sean Peyton to New Orleans the first time, in 2006. It's going to be a work in progress, as anything, but there are a lot of really good things going on."

While Bonamego said he always will feel loyalty to the Weavers, who gave him his first job in the NFL, he said, "I'm excited about the direction the franchise is going, with the new leadership and Mr. Khan coming on, the enthusiasm he has displayed."

"I don't think there are words to describe how excited and proud we are to be back – back in black and teal – and to be a part of Coach Mularkey's staff," he said. "It means a lot to us and I can't wait to get to work with these players."

Bonamego said he spoke with Jaguars special teams ace Montell Owens, who recently was named to a second consecutive Pro Bowl, Monday on the way to Mobile, and he also said he has spoken with kicker Josh Scobee, punter Nick Harris and long snapper Jeremy Cain.

He said he is playing "phone tag" with special teams ace Kassim Osgood.

"We'll definitely catch up," he said.

That's something he said he'll be doing a bit more in the coming weeks, and considering his feelings for the organization, he said that's a process to which he is very much looking forward as well.

"I'm extremely excited about being a part of this staff and what's going to happen at this point," Bonamego said. "I've always said this and I really, really believe this – that places aren't bricks and mortar. It's the people who walk the hallways and the people you're in contact with every day on a daily basis.

"It's the players in the locker room. It's the guys on the equipment staff. It's Jesse in the mail room. It's Tim Bishko in the ticket office. It's the people who make a place special. Has it changed that much? No. I've been in the visitor's locker room the last few times I've been back to Jacksonville, but even those times, even though I was on the opposite side, there were always those people who said, 'Hey, Coach – how are you doing? How's your family? How are your boys? How is your daughter. . . ?

"I don't know. I'm probably saying too much, but it's special."

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