Abbotsford’s Boseko Lokombo signs with B.C. Lions

Boseko Lokombo, a former W.J. Mouat Hawk, has signed with the B.C. Lions.

W.J. Mouat grad Boseko Lokombo signed with the B.C. Lions on Monday.

W.J. Mouat grad Boseko Lokombo signed with the B.C. Lions on Monday.

Boseko Lokombo has signed with the B.C. Lions.

The 23-year-old linebacker out of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary put pen to paper with the CFL club on Monday, ending his wait for an NFL offer in favour of starting his pro career north of the border.

“I felt like it was the right time, and I felt like I’d waited long enough,” Lokombo told The News in a brief cellphone conversation, between signing the contract and taking his physical with the Lions. “It was time to make a decision.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a good move as far as being close to home and close to my family. The B.C. Lions is a great program, and I get to surround myself with a lot of guys who enjoy doing what they do.”

Signing Lokombo is a major coup for the Lions, who took a calculated risk in picking the physically gifted linebacker in the third round of the 2013 CFL draft.

Lokombo, then heading into his senior season with the University of Oregon Ducks, was the No. 1-rated prospect according to the CFL scouting bureau, but lasted until the third round because it was expected he’d be NFL-bound.

Surgery in February to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder helped to steer Lokombo the Lions’ way. It was likely a factor in his being passed over in the NFL draft in May, and by the time he was medically cleared on Aug. 15, NFL training camps were already well underway.

Lokombo, meanwhile, was getting antsy to play. He scratched his football itch by suiting up for his older brother Boloy’s team, the Abbotsford Razorbacks, in the Western Canadian Touch Football Championships at Exhibition Park (they finished second). Three weeks later, he came to terms with the Lions.

“The first person I saw today was (Lions GM) Wally Buono, and he joked about me getting ready to play on both defence and offence,” Lokombo said with a chuckle, adding that he’s “100 per cent” physically.

Lokombo wasn’t sure whether Buono was kidding or not, but he believes he’s got something to offer on the offensive side of the ball if that’s something the Lions ask of him. He was best known during his Mouat tenure for his work as a running back, and led the province with 32 total touchdowns (22 rushing, eight receiving, plus an interception return and a punt return) during his Grade 12 year.

The 6’2″, 233-pounder made a full-time transition to defence at Oregon and was a key contributor during the Ducks’ epic run of success over the past four seasons, during which the program amassed a 47-6 record.

His first three seasons in uniform, Lokombo helped Oregon to prestigious Bowl Championship Series (BCS) bowls, and he wrapped up his career with a 30-7 win over the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30, 2013.

As a senior, he was seventh on the Ducks with 63 tackles, and was first on the team in quarterback hurries (seven), second in tackles for a loss (seven) and third in sacks (three).

At Oregon, Lokombo’s multifaceted linebacking role required an ability to rush the passer on one play and drop into coverage the next. He believes those skills will translate well to the CFL and its larger field, which demands similar versatility from linebackers.

“Bo has tremendous upside and loads of potential,” Lions head coach Mike Benevides said in a press release. “It was a calculated risk to take him in the draft and I’m thrilled that it’s worked out for our organization. It will be great to have him on the field and help us continue to improve as a team.”