Motivated by competition, Bivona finds elite status
Sam Tapper — Sports Writer
Coming off of a season which saw the Owls’ top two running backs graduate — Vochan Fowler and Eli Parks, who was last year’s NE10 Offensive Player of the Year — made for a big question mark going into this season.
Insert sophomore Jonmichael Bivona into the equation. Though he may not be the biggest or most vocal guy on the field, his hard work and dedication have propelled him into being Southern’s new, top rushing threat.
Bivona came to Southern from Stamford, Conn., and due to growing up in a large family with multiple siblings, he says, football has always been a part of his life.
“I come from a big Italian family: four siblings, three brothers; two of them were older. I’ve been playing football my whole life — since the first grade,” said Bivona. “I just grew up with [football]. My two older brothers played before me, and I played flag football since I was in preschool or kindergarten, and then I snuck on a team in first grade.”
Bivona played throughout most of his high school career and ultimately graduated from Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford. Though he said he feels he was “overlooked” in the All-State discussion, Bivona was an allconference selection his senior year and a two-time MSG Varsity All-Connecticut selection while also serving as team captain.
His recruitment process, however, was unorthodox, to say the least. As he walked off the field for the final time as a high school senior, he thought his playing career was over because he had no collegiate offers. Bivona enrolled in community college right out of high school, but as he spent more and more time away from the game, he realized how much he missed it.
With that in mind, he quickly got into contact with the Owls’ academic and recruiting coordinator, Nathan Tyler.
“I didn’t really know where he had ended up officially,” said Tyler. “He ended up going to Norwalk Community College, so he hadn’t gone to another [junior college] to play. So, we kind of talked through that process of if he was still interested in playing. He’s a guy that we had liked a lot coming out of high school.”
When Bivona finally got the call to come to Southern, he said he took “full advantage” of the opportunity. When he got that call, he said it was pure joy knowing he would be able to step out onto the football field once again.
“I was ecstatic,” Bivona said. “It was one of the best days definitely, for sure, realizing that I could go out and play football again.”
However, when he first arrived, he had a lot more work to put in before he would see any in-game action. In 2018, Bivona was on the scout team, yet was still was able to work and learn every day from then-seniors Parks and Fowler. Head coach Tom Godek says he sees Bivona replicating a similar work ethic to that of the running backs before him.
“With [Parks and Fowler], it was always first ones in, last ones out, notebook in hand, ready for the meeting,” said Godek. “I would tell any guy on the team to watch those two guys, whether they’re playing their position or not, and a lot of that is trickling down to some of the team we have now.”
Fast-forward to today, and Bivona is not only Southern’s top running back, but one of the better backs in the conference. Bivona ranks sixth for rushing touchdowns among running backs in the NE10, tied with NE10 standouts Shamar Logan, a junior at UNH, and Doug Santos, a senior for Assumption, among
He was also named the NE10 Rookie of the Week after his threetouchdown performance against Franklin Pierce.
“Coming in, I really wanted to get the starting spot, but I also wanted to become a leader for the group,” said Bivona. “I’m still working at that. I’m young, but I’m definitely capable of doing the job. Being in the starting job is very rewarding, but it comes with a lot, and, like I said, you just have to continue to work and never be complacent.”
Though Bivona is not the most vocal guy in the locker room, his teammates have high praise for him and what he brings to the team. “Jonmichael’s the best,” said freshman Jackson Ostrowsky.
“As a player, a tough guy, he’s not the biggest guy out there, but he’s a guy that’s going to go toe-to-toe with you every play and get back up and keep going. He’s a monster.”
Though Bivona has certainly begun making his mark on the program and the NE10 this year, he has a lot more to do before he can achieve his goal of winning an NE10 championship. Going forward in his career, he is not worried about personal goals and instead is focused on being the hardest worker and getting better every day.
“He’s his own man,” said Godek. “He handles his business. He definitely has a way about him; he’s concerned about all aspects of the team. Whether you win or lose, we’re moving forward to the next game pretty fast with him, and you can’t ask for a better guy than that.”