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A student of the gridiron

Boseko Lokombo, a graduate of W.J. Mouat, is making a name for himself as a linebacker for the University of Oregon Ducks in the PAC-10. Photograph by: Chris Pietsch, the Register-Guard/for the Times

Boseko Lokombo earned his playing time with the University of Oregon Ducks

By Cam Tucker, Special to the Times November 12, 2010

Right around this time last year, Boseko Lokombo was being taught how to endure – an intrinsic lesson almost all freshman college football players go through.

For the first time in his football career, Abbotsford’s Lokombo, now 20, was not a starter. He, in fact, saw nothing of the field on game day in his first year with the University of Oregon Ducks except from a television screen or the seats of Autzen Stadium.

His tasks included learning the defensive schemes of the opposition each week, then utilizing those plays in practice to help his teammates on the first string offence map out a game plan.

“I dedicated myself to coming in to watch film and studying what we do,” Lokombo told the Times. “I just became a student of the game, especially all the little things, the technical things that are important.”

The seeds of wisdom had been planted, but it wasn’t the start to the college career Lokombo had envisioned for himself, especially after collecting 22 touchdowns and helping the W.J. Mouat Hawks reach the B.C. High School football championships in Grade 12.

“At first I was just having a tough time because I thought I was good enough to play right away,” he said.

“The coaches talked to me and said it’s going to be worth it at the end and now I don’t even care if I’m on the field a lot or not as far as I’m contributing and doing everything I can for the team. That’s all that really matters.”

In essence, Lokombo’s first two years at the U of Oregon have been a reflection of the life he has led dating back to his days in Africa. He was required to endure, not to get onto a football field, but simply to survive.

He moved with his family from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to Canada, a new land and a new culture, in 1996. With his dad, Leon, already living in Canada, Boseko and the remaining family members touched down in the middle of a Montreal winter – it was snowing that day.

Once in Abbotsford, his new venture, football, began with anything but prosperity – at one time he considered quitting. But giving up just isn’t in his gene pool.

“It’s taught me never to give up in all facets of life. It’s taught me to never take anything too seriously and to just work hard,” Lokombo said of his experiences. “My parents dedicated their lives to trying to make our lives better. They always pushed me to come out here and play hard and to succeed, and I take that serious and it helps in football.”

The lessons pertaining to survival and endurance have certainly had an effect on the football field. Lokombo’s contributions last season went undetected by tailgate partiers or suited TV analysts. A year later, how things have changed.

Lokombo is now a fixture as a linebacker for the Ducks, the top team in the U.S. college ranks today.

“I will do anything to try and make a play, and the coaches respect me for my ability to make plays, finish plays and I try my best to work hard everyday when we come out here.”

And for his efforts, for his perseverance under the most ruthless of circumstances, Lokombo received his biggest personal reward on Sept. 25 against the Arizona State University Sun Devils. The six-foot-three behemoth scored his first college football touchdown – a 32-yard scamper off a fumble recovery.

The play itself was a bit odd. The ASU quarterback tossed a lateral to his running back, who fumbled the ball and didn’t go back to recover it, thinking the referee had ruled it an incomplete pass.

Lokombo, not hearing the whistle, picked up the pigskin and rumbled into the Sun Devils’ end zone for the major.

“I saw the ball and I didn’t know if it was going to be a lateral or not,” he chuckled. “The coaches always tell us to finish plays, pick it up and let the referee decide.

“It felt really great, it was amazing.”

University of Oregon Ducks

Lokombo and the Ducks are on fire this season, topping the ranks of U.S. college football with a seemingly unbeatable team. The Ducks are coming off a 53-16 victory over their rivals, the University of Washington Huskies on Nov. 6.

It was the third game in a row, and fourth in the last five that the Ducks put up more than 50 points in a game. Lokombo had one tackle in the winning effort. In nine games this season, the PAC-10 Ducks jump into top spot in the BSC rankings.

“We try to come out every week, practise hard and play Oregon Duck football,” said Lokombo. The No. 1 seeded Ducks will flock to Berkeley, Calif. for a meeting with the University of California Golden Bears on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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