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Journey to the Arena Dream: Jonathan Bane, Quarterback, West Texas

Updated at Mar 1, 2024

Read up on how Jonathan Bane has overcome adversity and injury to arrive in West Texas chasing his Arena Dream.

On June 9, 2023, Jonathan Bane broke his neck and was rushed to the hospital. Four months later, he has been cleared to play football again and is currently signed to play his 11th professional season with the West Texas Desert Hawks.

On the surface, Jonathan Bane is a lot of things. He is an AFL veteran, an Offensive Player of the Year, a league champion, and the all-time passing yards leader for the NAL. However, the journey he has been on and the challenges he has overcome supersedes all of it.

Catastrophe

Bane sets up under center and drops back to pass. The pocket begins to collapse; he is forced out to the right.

Scrambling out to the side, he releases the ball and takes a big hit. Bam! Bane goes flying into the sidewall–no movement from the man on the ground. With no feeling in his extremities, the medical team rushes him to the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, the medical staff determined that he had broken his neck upon hitting the sidewall and temporarily fused several discs. Later that night, the doctors came into his room and rushed him into the operating room for emergency spinal surgery. Upon coming out from anesthesia, the first words out of his mouth are, “Am I going to be able to play football again?”

“You got to be a little crazy to play this game.”

The doctors laughed and simply wanted to work on getting him back to walking and daily movements, but Bane was not joking. Strikingly, he had already overcome these odds once before. As a high schooler, he was paralyzed after a car crash, and at 17 years old, he was told that he would never walk again.

“I was just thinking, “No way. No way this story of mine ends like this.”

So, he got back to work. Bane leaped incredible hurdles through his recovery process. His movement was incredibly hard, he had a myriad of nerve pain, and the doctors did not even know if his hands would ever stop tingling. Bane gives the credit for his recovery to God for both the odds that he overcame and the strength to overcome them.

“It was the Good Lord, man. I think I was doing my part while he was doing his."

The Journey

Jonathan Bane’s career started at Dakota Wesleyan. From 2011-2014, he started 30 games, amassing 7,304 yards, 71 touchdowns, and a 53.5 completion percentage. After leaving college, the opportunities came in droves. He took to the indoor game, playing his rookie season (2014) in the IFL with the Richmond Raiders. The following year with Richmond, he won Offensive Player of the Year and took the Raiders to the championship. The next few years meant stops with multiple teams, but according to Bane, those seasons marked a serious turn for the better.

While serving in his first Arena Football season for the 2016 Tampa Bay Storm, Bane had a major target in wide receiver T.T. Toliver. Toliver’s resumé is unmatched in AFL history; he is the all-time AFL leader in receptions, receiving yards, and all-purpose yards – not to mention he is a two-time ArenaBowl champion. Bane refers to Toliver as “the greatest receiver to ever play in the game,” and that is no reckless comment. Watching how Toliver handled himself and the arena game as a whole changed his perspective on how he should be taking on the AFL. While he previously looked at the AFL as a stepping stone to get back to outdoor football, he flipped his goal- he was going to dominate this league.

Like Thanos conquered planets, Bane began conquering whatever league he touched. Since starting off 1-5 in Bismarck in 2017, he has gone 38-5, with a major step during the 2019 season with the Jacksonville Sharks. He dutifully led the Sharks to a league-leading 7-1 record while simultaneously leading the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns. That is, until he was sidelined by an ankle injury in week 8. It looked like Bane would be out for the rest of the season, but he made a late-season return to play in the NAL Championship game despite the time off and returning from an injury. The Sharks took the game 52-48, becoming the 2019 National Arena League champions.

After the 2019 season, Bane made a stop with the Frisco Fighters of the IFL until 2022, when he realized he was ready to get back to Arena Football. In his words, “The Arena game is different. The true arena football game- the rules, everything that makes it so different is what makes it so beautiful.” That 2022 season was spent in Greensboro, North Carolina, with the Carolina Cobras. Bane himself believed he was in the midst of the best season of his career until a broken ankle in week 10 put him back on the IR. He was ruled out for the season but returned from his injury in time for the playoffs. Equipped with a makeshift cast and true grit, he led his team through the first round of the playoffs against Columbus and was prepared to take on the Albany Empire. The Empire has always been a powerhouse, but the Cobras had already beaten them three times during the regular season. Unfortunately, four times was once too many, and Bane and the Cobras were defeated in the championship game.

The following 2023 season was a long series of complicated events. That season he spent time with four different teams in two different leagues: the San Antonio Gunslingers, the Iowa Barnstormers, the Albany Empire, and the Orlando Predators. At the time, Albany was owned by NFL great Antonio Brown. The Antonio Brown reign of the Empire would become known as completely chaotic and catastrophic. From shoddy financial decisions to curious managerial ones, the Empire was crashing, leading to Bane making his last stop of 2023 in Orlando.

Bane came into the Orlando spot with only a few games left in the season. His first game as the signal caller of the Orlando offense was against his former San Antonio team, which ended in a six-point loss. There were no worries for him, though, because the revenge tour would continue. The next team on the schedule happened to be the Albany Empire. Bane was having a phenomenal game, and the Predators were up big going into the fourth quarter. Normally, the starting QB will be subbed out when a team is significantly ahead. Unfortunately, the backup quarterback for the Predators was hurt and could not continue for the rest of the game. So, with no other options, Jonathan Bane was sent out in the fourth quarter to close out the game. No sooner than the first drive of the quarter did catastrophe strike.

This Season

Though the franchise is young, the veteran presence is absurd. Bane is going to be backed up with huge names in the Arena game, like Kenny Veal and Lonnie Outlaw. Veal is a seasoned DB and league champion, while Outlaw has almost a decade of experience as a wide receiver. He will even be in good company in the QB room with Charles McCullum. McCullum and Bane have engaged in countless battles across their careers, but through this West Texas team, they combine into one massive force.

The West Texas Desert Hawks sit in Odessa, Texas which is a little over five hours from Bane’s hometown of Temple, Texas. The Desert Hawks are relatively new to the scene, being that this is their 4th season as a franchise. Though young, the “Texas Gunslinger” is prepared to take them straight to the championship. He has stated that he is just at that point in his career. The wins have been there, and the opportunities have been there, so, according to him, it is championship or bust.

Jonathan Bane has accolades, experience, and stats, but the reason the league will love him or fear him is his tenacity.

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