A breakaway back.
That’s how W. J. Mouat football coach Dennis Kelly describes Grade 10 Hawk Nelson Lokombo, who he says has the same explosive potential as older brother and current B.C. Lion Boseko Lokombo and 2014 graduate Maleek Irons. Breakaway backs can change games, creating “something out of nothing” and carrying teams on their capable shoulders.
Nelson’s numbers this season support Kelly’s assessment. At the junior varsity level, Lokombo scored 19 touchdowns in seven games, picking up 1,436 yards in 109 carries (an average of 13 yards per carry). He also suited up for every senior team game, playing in three and scoring two touchdowns in the Hawks’ final playoff game against the Van College Fighting Irish.
Nelson may not yet have his brother Boseko’s bulk, but that doesn’t matter if the other team can’t lay hands on him. Lokombo is fast in an eyebrow-raising, jaw-dropping sort of way, and most of the time simply outruns any would-be tacklers.
“He’s just got great vision,” says junior varsity coach Travis Bell. “He’s able to see the seams and the holes and he hits them hard. It’s rare that the first guy making contact brings him down. His feet are always going and he’s a hard worker.”
With the last name of ‘Lokombo,’ Nelson has several football role models within his own family to look to. He regularly consults with Boseko, who he calls his “biggest inspiration.”
“Now that the [CFL] playoffs are over, Bo came and was talking to me about having confidence in yourself and how that confidence will affect the game and have a big impact,” says Nelson.
Confidence is something Lokombo has been working on this season as he prepares to make the transition to senior football. In his opinion, successful running backs have the confidence and determination to dominate the field, as well as the resilience to recover from adversity.
“He’s too humble,” admits Bell, smiling, “he needs a little bit more swagger.”
Nelson is surprisingly reserved for a junior player scoring touchdowns with the senior team. He’s quiet, using his few words to emphasize the encouragement he receives from his family.
“My dad is really supportive of me,” he says. “Honestly, if I were to play cricket or something, he’d support me all the way. He’d become the number one cricket fan.”
More comfortable on offence than defence, Nelson is looking forward to making a name for himself next year at the senior level. In the long term, he wants to follow a similar path to his brother and win a university football scholarship after high school. In the short term, he simply wants revenge on Van College, which beat the junior Hawks 63-24 in the second round of the playoffs.
“My number one motivation for next year is that game,” he says, and behind his eyes, it’s easy to see that he’s already moving, ready to break.