By Dan Kinvig – Abbotsford News
Published: December 23, 2010 7:00 AM
As an aspiring journalist, Boseko Lokombo knows a good story when he sees one.
And he couldn’t have imagined a better storyline for his freshman season with the University of Oregon Ducks football team than how it’s currently playing out.
Lokombo, a 20-year-old graduate of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary, will take the field for the Bowl Championship Series national title game – emblematic of NCAA football supremacy – on Jan. 10. His Ducks face the Auburn Tigers in Glendale, Ariz.
To put the magnitude of this game in perspective, last season’s BCS championship between Alabama and Texas drew 30.8 million viewers on ABC, making it one of the most-watched telecasts of the year in the U.S.
Lokombo will be in the middle of the action. Despite his status as a redshirt freshman, the 6’3″, 223-pound phenom has earned extensive playing time as the backup linebacker and key special-teams contributor with the undefeated Ducks (12-0).
That’s an impressive feat at an elite Pac-10 program like Oregon, where top athletes can sit on the bench for multiple seasons before they see the field regularly.
“I thought it was going to be strictly special teams (as a freshman),” said Lokombo, who rotates with starter Josh Kaddu at the strong-side linebacker spot, which demands an ability to rush the passer as well as drop back into coverage.
“Every game that I play, it seems like I’m getting better. I’m figuring out what the offence is trying to do.”
On Jan. 10, the major challenge for Lokombo and his Ducks defensive mates will be containing Cam Newton, Auburn’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Newton is a monster at 6’6″, 250 pounds, and he’s a dual threat, having passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 this season.
“He’s a great player, a great athlete,” Lokombo said of Newton. “But we’re pretty good too, and we’re pretty fast.
“We’re not making a lot of big changes (strategy-wise), but there are a few things here and there that everybody’s going to see,” he added. “I’m excited to be there, to play, to prepare, and to face one of the best teams.”
Lokombo’s 35 tackles are 10th-most on the Ducks, and he’s tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries. One of those, on Sept. 25 against Arizona State, he returned for a touchdown.
“It was a lateral pass, and I guess the running back thought it was an incomplete (forward pass), but our coaches always tell us to finish plays and let the referee decide,” he recalled with a grin. “When I got in the end zone, I looked at the referee, and he had his hands up (signaling touchdown).
“They reviewed it and confirmed it was a touchdown, and I was so happy. On the sideline I was just going off, celebrating with my teammates. It was fantastic, really indescribable.”
Lokombo feels at home at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene. It’s a familiar setting – Lokombo transferred to South Eugene High for his junior year in order to draw the attention of NCAA recruiters, and by season’s end, he was rated the top linebacking recruit in the state. He returned to Mouat for his senior year, and playing on both sides of the ball, he led the province with 32 total touchdowns (22 rushing, eight receiving, plus an interception return and a punt return).
Eugene is close enough to home that Lokombo’s parents Leon and Anne-Marie can drive down from Abbotsford to attend games. There’s an electric atmosphere in Eugene these days, with the Ducks one win away from the first national football title in school history.
“It’s fun being in a college town – everybody knows the Oregon Ducks,” said Lokombo, who is working on his prerequisites for entry into the university’s school of journalism and compiled a 3.1 GPA this past term.
“You feel like a celebrity when you’re walking around town, and all the kids are really excited to see you. It’s also a big responsibility that way, but I really enjoy it.”
Lokombo arrived back home in Abbotsford on Tuesday for a brief Christmas break. The Ducks resume practice in Eugene on Dec. 27, and depart for Arizona on Jan. 2.