By Howard Tsumura Fri, Nov 5 2010 Howie’s High School Hamper
As an aspiring journalism major, Boseko Lokombo is getting a leg up on the rest of his classmates at the University of Oregon.
That’s because when Lokombo left Abbotsford to begin his college gridiron career 15 months ago with the Oregon Ducks, he never thought he’d see the level of media attention that comes with being a part of the top-ranked team in all of NCAA football.
Yet those are the facts that the explosive former high school star with the W.J. Mouat Hawks and Province Head of the Class 2009 alumnus has experienced this season as a redshirt freshman linebacker with the team that is the talk of the college football world.
The Ducks are a perfect 8-0 and in control of their own destiny to play in the national championship game. ESPN’s College GameDay crew has already shown up on location in Eugene this season. And as the Ducks prepare to play host to the Washignton Huskies on Saturday (KOMO, 12:30 p.m.) within the deafening confines of Autzen Stadium, Lokombo finds himself a vital part of a team ranked No. 1 in not only the BCS standings, but in the Associated Press and USA Today polls as well.
“It really feels good to be a part of the No. 1 team, but we try not to look at it too much,” Lokombo explained Thursday during a phone interview from Eugene. “In fact the coaches preach not to look at it. We always just play our game because it’s at the end of the season when all of that stuff really matters.”
Oregon still has four more game remaining before the start of bowl season, and coming off last week’s win on the road against the USC Trojans in which Lokombo recorded four solo tacklesfrom his outside linebacker spot, the Ducks are sitting with a 5-0 record in the Pac 10 Conference.
It’s been the perfect transition from a 2009 campaign spent learning about the pace of big-time college football as a redshirt. Lokombo, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and moved to Canada in 1996, has since made the move to prime time this season, seeing heavy rotation at his position with starter Josh Kaddu.
Lokombo, who played linebacker at Mouat, but was known more as a running back after rushing for 1,558 yards and 22 touchdowns in his senior season of 2008, has 24 tackles this season and is tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries, including one he returned 32 yards for a touchdown in the Ducks’ 42-31 win Sept. 25 at Arizona State.
Thus far, it’s been one of his biggest highlights.
“I saw the ball and it looked like a lateral,” Lokombo explained of a pass thrown behind the line of scrimmage by ASU quarterback Steven Threet. “Coach always says to finish plays, so I picked it up and took it to the house. It felt great. A wonderful and incredible feeling. But the most important part was that it showed the Duck defence is willing to finish plays.”
He admits the change to playing strictly defence was different, but adds “I wanted to show the flexibility I had and the athleticism to adjust to other positions.”
Does he miss carrying the football on a team that includes Hesiman Trophy candidate LaMichael James?
“I told him that I used to play running back,” laughs Lokombo. “I joke around with him that I could have come in and backed him up. But I just enjoy watching him practice, play and perform.”
Lokombo’s done a lot of that on his own on the defensive side of the football, and he credits his development this season to the fact that he is getting heavy game reps in a rotation at his linebacker spot with Kaddu.
“The coaches really emphasize going hard for four to five plays and then coming out for a breather. So (Kaddu) will go in for five or six plays, and then I’ll go in for five or six plays.”
Denis Kelly, his former head coach at W.J. Mouat, has not only seen the growth but the fact that Lokombo’s rare athleticism fits right in with the best college players around.
“Some of the things he does just stand out, even against the calibre of athlete he is playing against,” says Kelly. “He is so quick and so instinctive in his play, that I think he is going to be a real star down there.”
And even though his team is ranked No. 1, that hasn’t stopped Lokombo from following his old high school team.
“Last time I checked they were 7-0,” Lokombo says of Mouat which has topped The Province’s Big 5 rankings since the preseason and have now moved to 8-0. “I’ve talked to some of the players like (quarterback) Cam Bedore. They have kept me updated.”
In the meantime, Lokombo is loving life Eugene, the quintessential U.S. college town where its Ducks, Ducks, Ducks 24-7.
“I love the food down here, hanging out with my friends, going to museums,” explains Lokombo, who adds that one day he’d like to return to his native Congo to help kids in need like his father Leon has done. “I idolize my father and he has inspired me to want to go back and help, and to learn more of where I came from.”
Seems like this football star’s story is just beginning.