Student strives for career in sports media despite disorder
Senior studying journalism finds resources, opportunity at University
Many University students have taken steps toward their futures, and Anthony Bonelli, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, is no exception. Though he never had the chance to play sports growing up with cerebral palsy, he fell in love with them at age 4.
Bonelli, who is working for his bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies, is an aspiring sports broadcaster.
“I want to cover every major sporting event, from the World Series to the Super Bowl,” he said. “I’ll even cover the Daytona 500 if I get the chance.”
One of the biggest misconceptions Bonelli faces is the assumption that he does not live a normal life.
Despite his disability, he is currently an active club member on campus, working as a sports analyst for WRSU. This weekend, he hosted the pre- and post-game shows for the Temple Owls versus the Scarlet Knights.
Bonelli, a transfer student from Warren Community College, is in his last year at the University. After he graduates, he hopes to find a job in sports.
“Right now I’m trying to get into the Rutgers men’s basketball team as a scout,” he said.
The student has overcome some obstacles to get to where he is today. At 10 days old, Bonelli suffered a brain hemorrhage that caused his cerebral palsy — a disorder that affects his speech and mobility.
He now relies on a personal aide, motorized wheelchair and speech programs to help with learning and communication.
“The way I was brought up, everyone has obstacles, [and] mine are a little more challenging. The only difference between me and everyone else is that my chair has wheels,” he said. “I do the same coursework and assignments as everybody else.”
Bonelli said he always had a fear of public speaking until he was 14 years old, when he attended the Bruce Beck and Ian Eagle Sports Broadcasting Camp at Montclair State University.
“They asked us to read off a teleprompter, and I froze. Bruce Beck came over and [put] out his hand on my shoulder and asked me if I wanted to do it,” he said. “I took a deep breath and just started reading.”
Once getting comfortable reading off of a camera, Bonelli started to become more comfortable speaking to people in general. He now returns to the camp to help inspire the younger generations that now attend.
“I go back every year and talk to the kids and tell them about my experiences. I give all the credit to the camp, without them I wouldn’t know where I would be today,” he said.
Diane Bonelli, Anthony’s mother, said the University community has embraced her son without question and has really helped shape him into the person he is today.
“The Rutgers family has embraced Anthony and made his life a lot easier compared to his K-12 experience,” she said. “Because of that, Anthony’s confidence has blossomed into a young man who will not be stopped.”
Anthony Bonelli’s confidence has taken him to places some only dream of going — he has met and interviewed professional athletes, and has even covered the Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
One of his favorite interviews was with Karl Malone, a player he watched growing up. Anthony Bonelli attended a conference with Malone and got his picture taken, but Malone had moved on before he could thank him. The following day, he got his chance.
“It’s hard not to be starstruck when you meet these guys,” Anthony Bonelli said. “He came over and said that he remembered me from the previous day. He said the jacket he was given for the hall of fame was too small and didn’t fit so he gave it to me. That was a great experience.”
Last summer, Bonelli had an internship with the Office of Instructional and Research Technology, which enabled him to use advancing technology while writing blog posts, something he was told he would not be able to do.
“I wrote 15 blog posts in eight weeks,” he said.
Gayle Stein, associate director of Instructional Technology who taught Anthony Bonelli in a previous course, told him about the internship.
“Anthony Bonelli is a remarkable man who doesn’t know how remarkable he is. It was my first opportunity to meet someone with cerebral palsy and Anthony’s first opportunity in a large university course,” Stein said.
Bonelli approached Stein about an internship last year and was given the chance to use voice recognition software.
“Based on his ability to master this technology, Anthony was able to blog without the aid of a typist,” Stein said.
Bonelli has a personal aide to help him with the adjustment and with his day-to-day routines.
Richard Thompson, a private personal aide, has been with Bonelli for about two years.
“I sit in the classes with him,” he said. “I have learned a lot with him.”
Thompson said the transition was tough because the University has not accommodated someone like Bonelli before, but did everything they could to help.
“The adjustment was a tall order. The university scanned his books into a computer so that they would be read to him,” Thompson said. “Now he can also write by speaking. People would find it difficult to understand him at first, but [it] got easier as time went on.”
While finishing his career at the University, Bonelli, like many students, does not know what the future holds.
“There are so many ways to go,” he said. “I’m still trying to figure it all out.”
Through it all, Diane Bonelli said people have always had high expectations for her son, and he has exceeded every one of them.
“I remember when he was about a year old, I took him to the neurologist and I asked him point blank, ‘Dr. Barabas, will Anthony talk?’” she said. “He responded, ‘Mrs. Bonelli, he is your son, what do you think?’”