He is a happy guy by nature, but these days it is virtually impossible to stop Bo Lokombo from sporting his signature grin. Not only is the speedy linebacker filling his role quite nicely on defence and special teams, he also spent part of his bye week getting engaged to long-time girlfriend Chynna Miley on the beaches of Maui. Being the fashionable guy he is, it’s no surprise he elected to pop the question in one of the world’s most scenic destinations.
“It was the perfect location,” Lokombo said after his first post-bye week practice. “It was fantastic and I am beyond excited to continue a lifetime journey with my love.”
Bo and Chyna’s romance began at the same place his football career really took off: The University of Oregon, where Chyna was a member of the women’s basketball squad. Despite not playing competitive football until the age of 14, Lokombo started 44 games with the Ducks during his impressive college career that also included victories in both the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, as well as an appearance in the 2011 BCS Title game. Another feather in Bo’s cap is the fact he has played for two very accomplished coaches in Wally Buono and Chip Kelly, the latter taking over as Oregon’s head coach in Bo’s first season at Eugene.
“Chip was a business like coach, everything was football with him,” Lokombo said. “He just wanted us to win, wanted us to succeed and he was a great guy. We won a lot of games when I was there; I think we were like 46-3. He wanted nothing but excellence, a lot like Wally.”
Given their competitiveness and reputation for success, it is safe to say Buono and Kelly are quite similar as coaches.
“I would say Wally is a little more business like, but he’ll open up to you and tell you some things. He’s a straight shooter. If he sees something wrong with you, he’ll have no problem saying what he needs to say,” Lokombo added.
Having the luxury of great head coaches has no doubt helped his development as a pro. It also doesn’t hurt to learn from arguably the two best linebackers North of the border. We are, of course, talking about the ‘Team 100’ duo of Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill. Lokombo was tasked with filling in for Elimimian after the 2014 CFL Most Outstanding Player went down with his season-ending Achillies injury last August.
The product of Abbotsford’s WJ Mouat High School took notice of how Bighill carried the load after that devastating August evening in Hamilton. “Bighill stepped up and I gained a lot of respect for him because he’s experienced anB.C. Lions’ Solomon Elimimian, left, and Bo Lokombo, top, sack Toronto Argonauts’ Ricky Ray but are penalized for roughing the passer during the second half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, B.C., on Thursday July 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyckd can tell you things you never even would have thought of,” Lokombo said. “Him and Solomon are great guys on and off the field.” Lokombo benefited from the increased role by earning a West Division All-Star nod after leading the CFL with 24 special teams tackles.
“As he’s matured as a man, he’s also matured and gotten better as a football player, which tends to happen,” said defensive coordinator Mark Washington. “He’s rounding out into a very good football player and also understands the role that he’s playing and what we’re asking him to do. He’s realizing the talent that he has, the skills God has given him and putting it all together. The fact he works with Solomon and Adam all the time, that helps.”
Through four games in 2016, the Lions defence has allowed 18.25 points per game, good for top spot in the CFL. Lokombo has enjoyed being a part of it but also acknowledges there is always room for improvement.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I think overall have managed to make plays and help our team. Coach Washington has been making great calls and the biggest thing with us is we’ve made the adjustments, especially in the second half. We’ve come out after the break and firing on all cylinders and plays. He has called them, and we have executed.”
For now, Bo is focused on helping the defence with unfinished business in 2016. After the season, it’s all about wedding planning and getting Chyna prepared for joining the big Lokombo clan; Bo is the fourth of Leon and Anne-Marie Lokombo’s seven children. Before settling in Abbotsford, the family immigrated to Montreal from the Republic of Congo when Bo was just five.
“It was a lot of craziness growing up, but I learned a lot from everything,” the linebacker said. “I wasn’t really a football guy until my brother started playing. That got me into it.”
As fate would have it, the decision to play football led Bo to Eugene, Oregon and into the life of his now-fiancée.
It’s safe to say it is working out on and off the field.
Matt Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org