UPDATE: CMU Football Head Coach Battles Cancer As New Season Approaches

“I will fight it. I will beat it. I will coach this team this fall and for many, many years to come.”

Central Michigan University’s head football coach is battling a different, frightening opponent now.

Before he could take the field for the first time for the Chippewas, head coach John Bonamego says he has cancer in his left tonsil.

Bonamego made it public today at an announcement in Mt. Pleasant.

He told his team this morning.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman spoke with Coach Bonamego today to learn more about his new battle and its effect on the CMU community.


The announcement comes as a shock to the entire university.

In the meantime, Coach Bonamego says it he won’t let cancer slow him down.

“This is highly treatable,” Bonamego says. “There is a very, very high success rate in treating this particular cancer. I plan to fight this.”

CMU Football head coach John Bonamego got the tonsil cancer diagnosis last week.

This morning, he delivered the painful news to his team.

“I didn’t want to alarm them. I wanted them to have the facts,” Bonamego says. “I have never in my whole life ever ran from the truth or backed down from a challenge. That’s not the way I’m wired. The best way to deal with situations, good or bad, is to deal with them directly.”

This comes only months after Bonamego signed on as the team’s leader.

Before Mt. Pleasant, he spent two seasons with the Detroit Lions as their special teams coordinator.

Coach is confident of a victory against this new opponent.

“Basically, I just got another game on the schedule,” Bonamego says. “I’ve got one more opponent to beat this summer. Yes, it’s serious when you get that kind of news but this is something we are going to beat.”

He’s not alone.

His wife, Paulette, and his Fighting Chippewas are behind him.

“She’s been there through every step so we’re kind of going through this together,” Bonamego says.

“We know he’s a tough guy,” says CMU senior and center Nick Beamish. “It’s only a matter of time until he beats it. We are going to watch him fight and hopefully play the same way, represent him.”

Bonamego says although he doesn’t know how the treatment process will go yet, he doesn’t plan to miss any games… A picture of perseverance.

“It’s one of the things that the game teaches us,” Bonamego says. “It’s one of the things that we preach as coaches. Now it’s my turn to show everybody what that looks like.”

Coach Bonamego says doctors caught the cancer in time to start treatments within the next two weeks.

He says the treatments should be done before their first game.


MOUNT PLEASANT – Central Michigan University football coach John Bonamego announced today that he has been diagnosed with a “very treatable” form of cancer in his left tonsil.  He told his team and the fans in an open letter that he plans to continue to coach the team during his treatment.

The former CMU football player was announced as the 28th Head Coach in the program’s history on February 8th.  At a press conference the following day, he let everyone know that returning to coach his alma is a dream job.

Stay with Northern Michigan’s News Leader on-air and online for more details throughout the day.

Coach Bonamego released an open letter this morning and will meet with media this afternoon:

“Dear faculty, staff, students, alumni, fans and friends,

This morning I met with our student-athletes and coaches to let them know I have been diagnosed with cancer in my left tonsil. As I told our team, I WILL beat this. It was discovered early and is very treatable.

An excellent team of doctors here in Mount Pleasant and in Ann Arbor are overseeing my care. While a diagnosis like this is always scary, I am blessed to have the love and support of my family and those around me — including all of you. I know I will never be alone and for that I am very thankful.

I will continue to coach during my treatment, although I’ll make some adjustments such as attending fewer external events for a couple of months. As I’ve said many times since returning to CMU in February, we have one of the best staffs in the nation, and we will accomplish our goals together.

Our student-athletes are doing great and continue to work hard this summer in our strength and conditioning program. I am so proud to be their — and your — head football coach. We look forward to seeing you Sept. 3 for the opening game against Oklahoma State!

Fire Up Chips!

John Bonamego”