Thursday night's Fiesta Bowl (8:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN2) between the Oregon Ducks and the Kansas State Wildcats is one of the most anticipated NCAA bowl games of this season, and for good reason; until both teams suffered upset losses late in the season, they looked potentially on course to meet in the national championship game. It should be fascinating to watch the Ducks' explosive offence against Kansas State's vaunted defence, and there's high-profile star power aplenty on both sidelines, from coaches (Oregon's Chip Kelly, potentially in his last college game before leaving for an NFL job, and Kansas State's Bill Snyder, who's managed to make the Wildcats an unlikely national contender in two separate coaching stints) to running backs (Oregon's Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas) to quarterbacks (Kansas State's Collin Klein, Oregon's Marcus Mariota). For CFL fans and fans of Canadian talent, though, there's yet another reason to tune in. Oregon's starting strong-side linebacker, junior Boseko Lokombo, just happens to be Canadian and the top-ranked prospect for the 2013 CFL draft.
Long-time observers of the Canadian football scene need no introduction to Lokombo, who's been an effective presence on the Ducks' defence over the last three seasons after redshirting in his first year. He's turned in impressive performances in lesser roles before this season and has received plenty of high-profile opportunities to shine thanks to the Ducks making three straight BCS bowl appearances. (They lost the 2010-11 national championship game to Auburn, but beat Wisconsin in last year's Rose Bowl.) Lokombo was a high-school star at Abbotsford, B.C.'s W.J. Mouat Secondary before that, though, and he's got a terrific story that's worth passing along for those who haven't heard it. The Province's Howard Tsumura recently caught up with Lokombo to talk about his career so far, the journey that took him from Kinshasa (now in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to Canada to Oregon, and why he's choosing to study journalism:
[I]n his fourth season at Oregon, including the first spent as a redshirt, the graduate of W.J. Mouat Secondary has found the perfect way to sharpen that perspective: As a journalism major.
“The biggest thing for me is I want to be able to write, to be able to tell a story in any way I can,” explained Lokombo, who has also embraced the multimedia aspects of his major. “It’s so important for me to be able to express myself the way I want to, and I feel like journalism really helps with that. If you can master this, you can tell a story to anyone.”
And what story would he most like to tell?
“It would be more personal,” continued Lokombo, a member of The Province’s 2009 Head of the Class. “About my family, about all of our steps and the many obstacles we had to overcome in order to be where we are today.”
Lokombo’s father Leon, now a financial advisor in Abbotsford, left in 1993 with the goal of finding a safe haven for his wife Anne-Marie and their family. He eventually arrived in Sherbrooke, Que., but it would be almost three years before he was able to bring his entire family to Canada, including a six-year-old Boseko, who saw snow for the first time in his life the day he was re-united with his dad.
It's been quite a journey for Lokombo, and he's accomplished some pretty amazing things so far. He's been a key part of the Oregon defence this year as well, recording 34 tackles and a pair of interceptions. The most remarkable part of his story may be yet to come, though. Leon Lokombo told Tsumura Boseko's likely to stay at Oregon for his senior season, but he's already attracting NFL buzz, and there will certainly be a lot of CFL interest in him as well. He's probably unlikely to actually be taken first overall in this year's CFL draft, as those picks aren't often used on players who won't be ready for another year (and the NFL interest in him may lower his CFL draft position), but he might just be the most talented player in this year's CFL draft class. He'll be well worth watching Thursday and down the line.