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Utah State safety Shaq Bond primed for star turn after recovering from ACL injury

Bond is fully healed from his season-ending injury and “works every day to build on what he had before.”

Utah State sophomore safety Shaq Bond warms up prior to the Aggies’ game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at Maverik Stadium in Logan, Utah.
Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations

LOGAN — His was practically the first name uttered by the ACC Network crew that called Utah State’s season opener against Wake Forest.

Shaquez “Shaq” Bond was involved in the first play from scrimmage, coming up to tackle Wake Forest running back Cade Carney after a 7-yard gain. After that, his name was heard often, and he totaled eight tackles, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry in the Aggies’ 38-35 defeat.

The junior safety isn’t an unknown by any means.

Bond started in each of the eight games he played in last season. He recorded 37 tackles in 2018, which included three tackles for loss, and he added six pass breakups and one interception to his season statistics.

The interception, a 100-yard pick six against New Mexico, was one of the highlights of the Aggies’ season and at the time seemed to seal for Bond a position as one of the team’s standout defensive players.

Unfortunately for the Decatur, Illinois, native, he tore his ACL later in the game, cutting his season short.

Bond is back, though and, as evidenced by his play against the Demon Deacons, arguably better than ever.

“I thought (his recovery) was faster than most guys I’ve seen recover from injuries like that,” Utah State safeties coach Mike Caputo said. “He had a good transition. It was immediate as soon as he hit fall camp that he was in and he has worked like nothing happened.

“From day one, as soon as he could truly work, he’s worked on getting his steps back. He works every day to build on top of what he had before. That is just the skill set he has.”

Bond’s skill set is what excites the Aggies’ coaching staff the most, things like speed, quickness and hand-eye coordination.

“He has a natural savviness for the game,” said Caputo. “He has this ability to make a play on the ball. Those are things you can’t teach and you can’t coach. Those are natural instinct, football awareness things. A guy has it or he doesn’t, and (Shaq) has it.”

Bond credits his multisport-playing past for those skills that have made him an unquestioned leader in the Aggies’ defensive backfield, specifically baseball.

Prior to his time in Logan, as well as a season spent playing junior college football at Southwestern Junior College in Chula Vista, California, Bond was a collegiate baseball player.

Coming out of MacArthur High School, he was a three-sport letter winner (football, baseball and basketball), but America’s favorite pastime won out and Bond enrolled at Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois.

With the Lynx, he was a center fielder — a position he credits for most of his enviable traits.

“I am pretty good covering sideline to sideline and coming down because in baseball, it is the same thing,” Bond said. “The ball gets hit over your head and you have to take the same angles. Baseball helped with hand-eye coordination and catching the ball. My coaches always say I have great hand-eye coordination and ball placement skills, and I credit baseball for a lot of those things. Whenever I make a play, I say ‘Hey, that’s baseball.’”

Bond appeared in 33 games with the Lynx before deciding to give up the sport and take up football again.

“I really just missed it a lot,” he said. “I knew I had a great opportunity with baseball, but I got to a point where I really, really missed football. Baseball is fun and all, and is more natural to me, but I missed football.”

That decision took him to California where he quickly made his mark for the Jaguars.

Bond earned first team honors at safety (California Community College Athletic Association Region IV) in his only season at Southwestern Junior College, helping the Jaguars win the American Mountain Conference Championship.

By the end of the campaign, he was a highly desired JUCO recruit, with upwards of 30-plus scholarship offers from FBS programs, according to 247Sports.

“I was getting offers from big name schools,” Bond said.

The first of those programs to reach out, however, was Utah State, specifically special teams coordinator and running backs coach Stacy Collins, one of the few holdovers from the Matt Wells era.

“Coach Collins pursued me every day and let me know I was the guy,” Bond said. “He was the first person to actually come talk to me. Even after he offered me and I was getting offers from bigger, I wouldn’t say bigger now cause we up there, but (traditionally) bigger name schools, I really didn’t care because he talked to me every day.”

That was what it took to get Bond into Aggie blue, a feat that should continue to pay dividends.

“He is definitely a character, a leader and a voice in the (safeties) room,” Caputo said. “Everyone pays attention to him. There are guys who play football their entire lives, have the God-given ability, all the tools and the right chemical balance to be a great football player. Shaq has that. He has everything he needs to be a great competitor at whatever he does. That is the type of guy he is.”

Bond and the Aggies will look to bounce back from their opening week loss with a victory over Stony Brook Saturday in the team’s home opener.

The Sea Wolves, out of the FCS ranks and the Colonial Athletic Conference, are making their first trip to Utah to take on Utah State, and with coaches tied to Wake Forest — on defense specifically — they could provide a similar, if less imposing challenge.

“Stony Brook is a team that show you different personnel groups on the offensive side of the ball, which we haven’t seen yet this year,” Utah State head coach Gary Andersen said. “They’ll go from a spread offense to a more smash-you-in-the-mouth approach. Adjustments will be key to that.

“On the defensive side of the ball, the scheme seems fairly similar to Wake Forest. Aggressive defense likes to move the front around a lot. This week is more about adjusting yourself, though, and we are excited about the opportunity to play at home.”