Bo bowls ‘em over in third straight BCS game with Ducks
Howard Tsunamura, The Province, January 1, 2013. 8:32 pm • Section: Football
From the helmets and jerseys, to the pants, socks and shoes, a large part of the identity of the Oregon Ducks football team lies in the fact that it can choose from literally hundreds of different uniform combinations with which to take to the field.
But ask Abbotsford’s Boseko Lokombo which one he likes best, and one of the team’s starting outside linebackers has a quick-and-simple answer.
“I like the all-whites, those are my favourites,” he explained just before Christmas. “The ones with the green wings.”
Fitting, because when he lines up as a part of the BCS’ No. 4-ranked Ducks’ starting defensive unit on Thursday in the Fiesta Bowl against the No. 5 Kansas State Wildcats, Lokombo is not only going to be flying around the field making tackles, but making yet another stop on a most unique flight pattern which has taken him from his birthplace in central Africa, to both ends of his adopted Canadian homeland, and finally to the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene where he has grown into a 6-foot-3, 233-pound junior, and a touted NFL prospect.
Yet growing lock-step with his talents on the gridiron has been his perspective, one which began to take shape in early childhood as his family fled the political unrest and violence in what is now Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for a better life in Canada.
And now, in 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 the country 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.
These days, Leon and Anne-Marie share the joy of watching Boseko with the rest of their family, which includes four sons, two daughters and six grandchildren.
“I am the proudest dad I can be,” Leon said. “And we have a huge family so every time there is a game, it’s big excitement.”
In 2012, after spending his first two seasons as a key member of the Oregon defence, Lokombo won a starting position coming out fall camp with a linebacking core that includes the likes of standout seniors Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso.
Oregon, which at one stage this season held the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press rankings, heads into the Fiesta Bowl at No. 5, its drop coming after a late-season loss to Stanford, its only blemish in 12 games. Lokombo heads into the game with 34 tackles on the season, as well as a pair of interceptions. While its offence is much-ballyhooed, Oregon’s defence leads the NCAA with 24 interceptions.
But beyond the football, it’s been the example set by his parents which has helped form the steadiest part of Boseko’ s foundation.
In 2002, Leon established an orphanage in Kinshasa which today helps sustain the futures of 65 children aged five through 15.
Boseko admitted he would eventually love to extend his outreach globally in ways which follow his dad’s footsteps, as well as helping out in his own B.C. community. It’s something he is already doing in Eugene.
“As soon as we walk in, their eyes just sparkle,” Lokombo said of visiting area elementary schools with his teammates. “They look up to us, they want to be like us. And when we talk to them, we relay to them the importance of staying in school. They really take it to heart.”
It’s the same kind of impact he envisions potentially having in B.C.
“I think about it all the time,” he explained of starting a football camp back home in Abbotsford. “When I am done with my eligibility and if I get a chance to go pro, I really want to give back to my city, to Abbotsford. I want to help in any way I can.”
But for the moment, he needs to have a singular focus.
And preparing for big, season-ending BCS bowl games, is something Lokombo has become an expert at since his redshirt season in 2009. That season, he was able to observe his teammates prepare for a Rose Bowl clash with Ohio State. In his 2010 freshman season, he played in the Ducks’ national championship loss to Auburn, and last season he was a part of the defence that beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Next up, it’s an explosive Kansas State offence led by Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, that Lokombo and the Ducks’ defence are prepping for.
“In the past we’ve faced stars like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson,” explained Lokombo of the past two quarterbacks he’s faced in BCS bowl games, both now NFL stars. “(Klein) has got great touch, and he is mobile. But the coaches have done a great job in breaking him down for us. We’re just going to come out and play Oregon defence, and do what we have done all year.”
Beyond Thursday’s big game?
It seems Lokombo is very likely to return for his senior season, although no one knows for certain.
“We need him to finish his school and have his degree because he is going to be a journalist,” his dad explained. “The NFL will come along. Bo is not rushing into it. He has one more year to go. He is going to be a veteran next year.”
And one with a grand story to tell.
Jan. 3, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ.
Oregon Ducks (11-1, 8-1 Pac 12) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (11-1, 8-1 Big 12)
THE SKINNY — In mid-November, this matchup looked like it would be the one to decide the national championship. However Oregon lost to Stanford 17-14 in overtime on Nov. 17, the same day Kansas State lost a 52-24 shootout at Baylor.
Both teams feature explosive offences, led by their quarterbacks. Oregon’s redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota passed for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 690 yards and four TDs; Kansas State senior pivot Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist, passed for 2,490 yards and 15 TDs, while rushing for 890 yards and 22 scores.
Oregon RB Kenjon Barner, who moved into the feature tailback role following the graduation of LaMichael James to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, led the Ducks in rushing with 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. Multi-threat De’Anthony Thomas, perhaps the single most electrifying player in college football, totaled 1,562 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns through the air, along the ground and in the return game.
Kansas State junior RB John Hubert led the team with 892 yards rushing and 15 TDs, but was held under 80 yards rushing in each of the team’s final seven games. The trio of Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson all went over the 500-yard mark in receiving yardage this season, combining for 1,952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
STRONG FINISHES — Each team bounced back from its only defeats with strong regular season-ending outings. Oregon doubled Oregon State 48-24, while Kansas State topped Texas 42-24.
LOCAL TIES — Oregon LB Boseko Lokombo is a graduate of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary; Simon Fraser athletic director Milt Richards is the former athletic director at Kansas State.