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From Youth Homelessness to Professional Football: The Inspiring Journey of Prince Shonola, CFL/UFL Free Agent Wide Receiver

Prince Shonola is a wide receiver possessing good hands and tremendous speed. He has also proven to be dangerous as a returner on special teams. His path to the pros was uncommon as he faced a battle with homelessness for the majority of his teenage years.

WR Prince Shonola – Rocky Mountain (5’9, 176 lbs)

Prince Shonola’s pathway to professional football saw him overcome significant levels of adversity from a young age.

“I was homeless for several years, jumping house to house with friends and then eventually reconnecting with my oldest brother around 19 or 20. I was homeless mainly from 12 to 13 until I was about 20ish. My mom left around 13 years old. Shortly before, my parents did get divorced when I was 10 or 11.”

The instability through Shonola’s teenage years limited opportunities for him to play football. His only high school football came in his freshman year which saw him have a short stint being pulled up to varsity. He carved a unique pathway to college playing for semi-pro teams from ages 18 to 21.

“I played Semi-pro football from 18-21. Using that film to enroll in college. Graduated with my high school diploma from a private Christian Academy. Went to Warner University in Lake Wales Florida as a full-time student. In which they were a first-year football program, so that left me without football for 1 year. Transferred to Fullerton College JuCo and became the starting kick returner there. Motivated by my success I was able to earn a full-ride scholarship to Rocky Mountain College.”

Over his collegiate career, he recorded 36 catches for 934 yards and 6 touchdowns and totaled 1,314 all-purpose yards. He also averaged 22.9 yards per kick return. 

Shonola played in 17 games for Rocky Mountain across the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He recorded 30 receptions for 467 yards and 4 touchdowns. He had an impressive yards per catch with the program averaging 15.6 yards. He also returned 19 kickoffs averaging 22.9 yards per return and scored a kickoff return touchdown.

Shonola has demonstrated his speed at multiple workouts throughout his career. In 2022 he attended an XFL showcase and posted one of the fastest breakaway speeds clocking in at 21.6 miles per hour. On his pro day, he set the all-time 40-yard dash record at Rocky Mountain College recording a 4.33 forty time. He has since ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at a workout for the BC Lions as well as the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. He also posted a 4.41 40 time at a private workout with the Cleveland Browns.

Shonola got his first professional opportunity when he signed with the Alliance of American Football in August of 2018 with the Arizona Hotshots. Unfortunately, he was among the last cuts before the season.

“That journey taught me so much, being around Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Mike Vick, and many many NFL vets. Proved to me that I can do this, I can play at a high level. When that league folded I was already on my way to the AFL(Albany Empire). They came to one of my practices in Arizona and saw me put on a show. Everything happens for a reason and my divine purpose is to serve others through my passion.”

Shonola got his first arena football experience with the Albany Empire in the Arena Football League in 2019. He also played for the Carolina Cobras in 2019 in the National Arena League.

Shonoloa played for the Orlando Predators in 2021 where he recorded 40 receptions for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns over 5 games. He played for the San Diego Strike Force in the Indoor Football League in 2022 in a season limited by injury appearing in 3 games and recording 2 catches for 10 yards and a touchdown.

In 2023 he returned to the Orlando Predators where he appeared in 2 games recording 7 catches for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Shonola is currently signed with the Salina Liberty in the Arena Football League this season but he is free to sign with a CFL or UFL team should an opportunity present itself.

What do you think are the greatest qualities that you bring to a football team?

“I have many qualities which I consider to be equally great. However, My greatest quality is definitely my speed but also my catching ability. My drive enables me to push past limits that were initially put onto me. Change of direction within my routes and what I am also able to do without the ball. Separates me, doing the little things on run plays, working on being deceptive to the defender; regardless if I have the ball. The physical abilities are always great but my mental is what takes it over the top for me.”

When did you start playing football and what got you into it?

“I fell in love with the game at the age of 3. But I didn’t start playing football until the age of 10. My father introduced the game to me by buying me a football. And I began sleeping with it every day.”

What do you do in your free time?

“In my free time, I invest my time into real estate and short-term rentals. I love the idea of being an entrepreneur with my wife. Also, I enjoy the outdoors and traveling as much as possible. Meanwhile, I enjoy being around the youth as much as I can and offering the knowledge I’ve acquired over time in my journey.”

What kind of work do you do in real estate and with short-term rentals?

“My Wife and I manage a few Airbnbs. We handle all logistics, as well as cleanings for our units.”

What kind of activities or events do you do with youth?

“I have partnered with some NFL/CFL guys and assist them operate youth camps. I am more of a demonstration in each drill, but I also take that time to work on myself. Mainly I am there to answer any questions the kids have, and guide them when uncertain.”

Playing arena ball it’s somewhat similar to the CFL’s waggle with receivers in motion prior to the snap. Your experience playing indoors would likely make for a smoother transition to the CFL given you’ve essentially played with the waggle already. Do you enjoy that ruleset more as a wide receiver?

“I would say, the waggle is a tremendous benefit for a player of my attributes. With my speed, the waggle is an instant disadvantage for the defender. I truly love this wide Receiver position and what an art it takes to play this position.”

What are some things you might do differently when you’re playing in a league with that ruleset that allows you to be running to the line prior to the snap?

“My mindset is “set him up”, attack with speed. I play the mind game with my abilities, I will make every route appear the same, so that way the defender can never get a real grasp of what is coming next. Keeps them guessing. Knowing the defensive back’s alignment and where his eyes are, help me set up some routes as well.”

What is your mindset like on a run play? What do you think about before the ball is snapped on such a play?

“Regardless what play is called in the huddle, I attack the Defensive Back or Linbacker as if I am going out on a real route. Getting hands on the Defender is my main goal. ” getting a piece” as much as I can to help create a running lane for the Runner.”

Do you have a particular route that stands out as your favorite where you get excited when you get assigned that route? Or more so just enjoy a variety of routes?

“I personally enjoy all routes. Especially deep routes. However, getting the football in my hands as soon as possible is the goal, so the “Out” or “Whip” route would probably be on of my favorites.”

On one of those plays in your Predators highlight video you caught a deep ball on a clean route just as you entered the endzone. What were you kind of thinking about with the boards being just ahead to make sure you make the catch? I feel like that could be difficult to be running at speed head looking behind you to not worry about running into the boards and stay focused on making the play.

“Honestly, when the ball is in the air, you don’t think about the way. However, you have to be aware of spacing on the field, as a pro that is a must. Sometimes, I do look off from the ball, then lock back onto the ball. This happens fairly quickly.”

You also had an extremely crisp one handed grab in that video. Really an amazing catch. What kind of training do you do for your hands to prepare yourself to make those kinds of plays?

“Thank you! Honestly no matter what you do, moments like this one-handed catch kind of come naturally. I train using tennis balls, to help with hand-eye coordination and many other football drills to help strengthen my hands. In the end, my main goal is to catch the ball.”

What does a typical week look like for you in your training regimen?

“Two days cardio and two days full body. Try to mix it up as much as I can.”

Do you have any particular favorite football memory?

“My favorite football memory consists of a collective of things. From college ball to getting the opportunity to travel all across the US to live out my dreams. Doing pro days all-star games and even private NFL workouts. I am blessed to be in the position that I am in today. And thankful to be able to share these experiences to anyone who is willing to listen. Also having the opportunity to be a part of maximum sports video game was truly amazing.

Could you elaborate on what your role was with Maximum Football?

“It was a great Experience! They put me in a full-body suit with sensors that read every movement I do. And it’s all recorded onto the laptop. Super thrilling time. I was told my movements will be used in the game and even the choice to pick me a main story character”

Do you have any favorite movies, TV shows, novels, or video games?

“Video games definitely Madden, Forza, and Call of Duty.”

I was looking at some of your old tweets. Personally, I always have an appreciation for when people publicly thank God. Was your faith always important to you in your life or is that something that came later? What kind of impact did your faith have on your journey?

“Just want to be recognized and appreciated for my talent. Not excused because of my age.

My faith is everything. Without Christ I wouldn’t be here, thats the truth. Every path I’ve been on, has been at his grace.”

Is there any advice you would give to someone who is battling homelessness?

“Truly was a tremendous obstacle, back when I didn’t know where to find help. My advice would be, ask for help, be honest and vocal about where you are in life. Seek the help. You never know who may come across who is willing to guide you. And keep your faith in God.”

NFL Draft Diamonds Prospect Interview (2018)

The Gridiron Crew Prospect Interview (2018)

Draft Diamonds Free Agent Interview (2020)

Prince Shonola’s Youtube Channel Containing Highlights

Prince Shonola on Twitter @Goldenflash001

@JonathanClink on Twitter

Michael Holland III; Overcoming Injury: CFL/UFL Free Agent Defensive Back Profile

Quantaye Battle; Physical Leader: CFL/UFL Free Agent Defensive Back  Profile

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Jonathan Clink Reporter
Jonathan Clink joined CFL News Hub in early April of 2023. His primary responsibilities are covering the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes. He self awarded himself the CFL Rookie Journalist of the Year in 2023 following the 2023 CFL season. He also proclaims himself to be a "really cool guy". He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived a large portion of his childhood in Northwest Ontario. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and misses being being able to have 4 months of skating every winter. Clink has written over 240 articles for CFL News Hub. He was the publication's boots on the ground at the 2023 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Clink has always had an obsession for sport and has a background in other sports as well having played hockey all his life and soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school. As a young child he used to log his hockey statistics after every game which is either an indication that he was destined for the role or perhaps and indication that he is rather strange.
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