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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

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How Indiana football went from too far to ‘the vibe’ for new commit LeBron Bond

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Pick any given spring afternoon, and you’ll find LeBron Bond in the weight room after finishing class at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia. 

After departing the weight room, Bond heads to track and field practice. He’ll spend the next several hours preparing for the season ahead, when he’ll compete in the 100- and 200-meter races. 

Bond finishes his night at home, where he catches 300 tennis balls and several footballs. 

He used to catch 100 footballs each night, but within the past two–to-three weeks, he’s transitioned to tennis balls, citing the benefits to his hand-eye coordination. The idea came, in part, from YouTube and TikTok, where he saw others working through similar drills. 

Bond has a strict regimen — especially for a 17-year-old with nearly two months left in his junior year. 

This is the present for Bond. His future lays nearly 12 hours west in Bloomington, where he plans on spending his collegiate years running routes and scoring touchdowns inside Memorial Stadium. 

Bond, a 4-star receiver according to ESPN, committed to Indiana football on April 7, just over a week removed from his visit for the Hoosiers’ fifth spring practice March 30. He also had offers from Maryland, Boston College, West Virginia University, Syracuse University and several others. 

The commitment was a stark contrast to his mentality when the Hoosiers first offered a scholarship in February. 

“I was just like, ‘This is too far,’” Bond said. “That was my first thought.” 

But he didn’t fully write off Indiana. 

Bond began researching new Indiana head coach Curt Cignetti and saw the success he had at James Madison University. He also saw the migration of players and staff members following Cignetti from Harrisonburg, Virginia, to Bloomington. 

A phone call with Cignetti and Shanahan followed, and they encouraged Bond to visit. He did — and said he really enjoyed it, watching as Indiana quickly differentiated itself from other programs. 

“The vibe,” Bond said about why he chose the Hoosiers. “At IU, it was coach after coach coming up, showing me love. It wasn't like that at other schools.” 

During his visit, Bond spoke most frequently with offensive skill position quality control coach Eddie Burk Jr., running backs coach John Miller and assist director of player personnel Gage Proctor. 

As two of Bond’s most frequent contacts, Burk and Miller were key factors in his recruitment, as was offensive coordinator and receivers coach Mike Shanahan. 

Burk and Miller stressed to Bond that he was a priority for the coaching staff. Shanahan said he’s fond of Bond and believes his skill set can fit into the Hoosiers’ offense. 

Still, when Bond entered Indiana’s receivers’ room alongside Shanahan, Burk and graduate assistant receivers coach Reed Relosky, he didn’t know what to expect. He left with a feeling that ultimately helped shape his decision. 

“Coach Shanahan told the guys where I’m from and to say what’s up to me,” Bond said. “I felt welcomed. Then, I went to practice and coaches walked up and talked to me.” 

By this point, Bond’s mind began churning.  

His recruitment started before he even entered high school, receiving his first scholarship offer from Maryland prior to ninth grade. The process picked up toward the end of his sophomore year entering the start of his junior year. 

But after visiting Bloomington, Bond felt convinced. He visited another school the following weekend, and after getting back to the car, had a discussion with his parents. It didn’t last long. 

“We all looked at each other and we knew we were coming to Indiana,” Bond said. 

So, Bond became a Hoosier, officially announcing his intents on X, formerly known as Twitter, at 9:08 p.m. Sunday. 

In the days that followed, he saw his brand skyrocket to a level few 17-year-olds reach. 

“It’s been crazy,” Bond said. “I opened Twitter, and I got a lot of notifications, different sites posting me and stuff. I went on Google and talked to a friend — he googled Indiana football and it’s a lot of websites and it’s me up there. That’s really big for me.” 

*** 

Yes, Bond was named after LeBron James — but his basketball play style doesn’t mirror that of the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. 

“I definitely look up to him as a person,” Bond said. “But I’m kind of like a [Steph] Curry guy. I’m a shooter.” 

When he was younger, Bond was often called LeBron James by those around him. That’s one example of how others perceive him. Another is that he’s just a speedster on the football field. 

In track, Bond ran a 10.7-second 100-meter and 21.8-second 200-meter en route to earning All-American honors. On the football field, Bond was a first-team All-Virginia Class 5 selection this past season after catching 47 passes for 1,347 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

For Bond, who started playing football and running track around the age of five, his reputation precedes itself.  

“I always was the fastest on my team,” Bond said. “When I got older, everybody knows me as being fast. If you don’t know me, you’d know me as a fast guy.” 

But Bond believes there’s more to his game. He noted a recent conversation he had with another person who singled out the contested catches he makes. There’s also his change of direction, yards after catch, hands, jukes and route running, he said. 

To Bond, his story extends beyond the eye-opening 28.7 yards per catch he averaged last season and is more directly linked to the evening tennis ball sessions. 

“A lot of people would say my speed, but I would say my work ethic,” Bond said about the reason for his explosiveness. “People don’t see I put in the work. I think that will take me far.” 

Bond, who stands at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, started his football career as a running back. Around the age of 12, his dad told him to play receiver, believing that was better suited for his long-term future. 

Now, Bond spends his time watching other undersized receivers who’ve had success — the Houston Texans’ Tank Dell and Indianapolis Colts’ Josh Downs are the first two who come to his mind. His all-time favorites are Percy Harvin and Tavon Austin, both of whom compiled extensive highlight reels with their explosive playmaking ability. 

Bond hopes to do the same in Bloomington, sparked by his big-play potential and evolving nuance. 

And even if basketball may be the first sport that comes to mind for fans when his name echoes throughout Memorial Stadium in the fall of 2025, Bond’s heart belongs to the gridiron. 

“I just love football,” Bond said. 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football offseason. 

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