For Boseko Lokombo and the University of Oregon football team, facing elite dual-threat quarterbacks in high-profile bowl games should almost be considered an annual tradition at this point.
As a redshirt freshman in 2010-11, Lokombo – a linebacker out of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary – helped the Ducks to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) national title game, where they lost 22-19 to an Auburn Tigers squad led by Cam Newton. Three months later, Newton was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and he would go on to win the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award with the Carolina Panthers.
Last season, Lokombo was part of a victory in the storied Rose Bowl, as Oregon beat the Wisconsin Badgers 45-38. The Badgers’ offence was piloted by Russell Wilson, currently a rookie phenom with the Seattle Seahawks.
So as the Ducks prepare to face Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein – yet another pivot who can beat teams with his arm or with his legs – and the Kansas State Wildcats in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Thursday, Jan. 3, Lokombo is unfazed.
“He (Klein) is a good player, but the thing with him is, we’ve played many dual-threat quarterbacks,” Lokombo noted. “We’re used to seeing talent like that, and it’s not really going to be a big difference. We’re just going to have to be ready for him, and their skill players too, and just play defence like we’ve been playing all year.”
Lokombo has stepped to the forefront during his junior season with the Eugene, Ore. program. After seeing significant playing time as a backup his first two years and fashioning a big-play reputation, the 6’3”, 233-pounder has recorded 34 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble and four pass knockdowns in his first season as a full-time starter.
He’s helped the Ducks to an 11-1 record, and only an overtime loss to Stanford on Nov. 17 prevented Oregon from making a return trip to the national championship game. As it stands, Lokombo will be playing in a prestigious BCS bowl game for the third straight year.
His play is drawing notice. Last week, he was No. 1 in the most recent prospect rankings from the Canadian Football League Scouting Bureau. The winter edition of the list features the top 15 prospects eligible for the 2013 Canadian draft, and is composed with input from CFL scouts, player personnel directors and general managers.
“It’s really exciting to see that, and it’s a blessing,” Lokombo said. “It’s showing that all this hard work is paying off. It’s really neat to see people paying attention to your talent.”
Whether or not he’s selected in the CFL draft in the spring, Lokombo plans to return for his senior year at Oregon. Beyond that, playing in the NFL is his ultimate goal.
“I’m going to get my degree,” said Lokombo, a journalism major. “It’s a promise I made my mom and my family – the degree is the ultimate prize. I’m 100 per cent going to come back, finish my senior year, get my degree, and just keep working hard and see what happens after that.
“I feel like I had a good season, but there’s still a lot for me to learn. There’s still lots of improvements in every facet of the game. I’m still just getting comfortable and getting started. The sky is the limit – I’m only going to keep getting better and better.”