BC Lions’ Bo Lokombo (20) tries to strip the ball from Ottawa Redblacks’ Diontae Spencer (85) as teammate Marco Dubois (89) runs alongside throughout first half CFL motion in Ottawa on Friday, July 20, 2018.

Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS

First he went undrafted within the NFL. Then he bounced round NFL apply rosters. However since returning to B.C., Lions linebacker Bo Lokombo has been nothing in need of sensational.

He was 230 kilos when he got here into the league, and Bo Lokombo nonetheless weighs thereabouts. However he’s loads lighter today, not carrying an enormous chip on his shoulder. The Abbotsford product wasn’t drafted after 4 seasons enjoying linebacker with the Oregon Geese, a shoulder damage sending him tumbling down the charts, and he ended up enjoying three seasons with the B.C. Lions earlier than making an attempt his hand on the NFL once more. He bounced across the apply rosters of the Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers for all of 2017, however discovered himself again in B.C. this yr. The 6-3, Congo-born defensive participant showcased his potential to be an elite defender, recording a team-high 87 complete tackles, 4 sacks and two interceptions — the latter two numbers main the linebacking corps — and was the crew’s nominee for Excellent Canadian. “The primary couple of years, popping out of Oregon, my preliminary thought was ‘Oh my god, I’m at Oregon, I’m enjoying D1, I need to go to the league,’” stated the 28-year-old. “So after I obtained harm and needed to come to the CFL, I used to be somewhat bit mad at myself, like ‘what did I do improper?’ So I got here in with the angle, the improper state of mind, the improper mindset, the primary couple years. “Coming again was loopy. Soccer, basically, it’s quite a lot of up and downs. So have the ability to come again and play for the house crew was nice for me. I had one among my higher seasons this yr as a result of I used to be so targeted.” Lokombo took his NFL expertise to coronary heart, integrating the teachings he realized into his day-to-day strategy to the sport. He educated — exhausting — and got here into final low season with a recent mentality, with particular private targets. It paid off. His 71 defensive tackles ranks solely behind corners T.J. Lee and Garry Peters, regardless of solely beginning the previous 5 video games. He’s made some game-changing performs, together with his first two profession interceptions in back-to-back video games in opposition to Montreal and Ottawa in September. “I needed to go all the way down to the States and show myself, and show that I might play with the massive boys,” he stated. “(The NFL expertise) humbled me. If something, it taught me that it’s all enterprise. They’re going to make strikes and choices for the crew’s greatest curiosity. “It’s an enormous enterprise, and it’s actually exhausting to get into, as a result of it’s such a small (quantity of gamers) and such a excessive demand. You may be changed in a heartbeat. That’s in all probability the hardest factor. Nobody is admittedly particular. “You actually need to work exhausting, and have somewhat little bit of luck in your facet, too. So after I got here again this fourth yr, I took all of it in. And that’s why they see an enormous change in me. I’m a extra targeted Bo.” Lokombo helped a defence lacking future Corridor of Fame linebacker Solomon Elimimian right into a ball-hawking, high-pressure unit, as B.C. led the league in move knock-downs, tied for tops in interceptions (21) and sacks (45). Huge, quick and powerful, Lokombo’s versatility allowed Lions’ defensive coordinator Mark Washington a level of freedom in his play-calling. “The phrase I take into consideration after I consider him is ‘maturing,’” stated Washington. “He’s getting an increasing number of mature every single day, bodily, mentally, and I believe his life is beginning to spherical out somewhat extra, and that simply permits him to come back right here and play. “He’s beginning to turn out to be a greater soccer participant as a result of he’s considering the sport. Bodily, he’s at all times been freakish. However now, you set that with the maturity and the thoughts, and now you will have the event of an excellent soccer participant.” Elimimian, who will go well with up for Sunday’s playoff recreation in opposition to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after being sidelined since Week 6 with a wrist damage, echoed Washington’s sentiment. “He’s a gifted participant, an athletic participant, and one I believe we’ve completed a superb job incorporating into this defence, and utilizing his talent set,” Elimimian stated. “Whether or not it’s sacks, interceptions, tackles, he can do all of it. He simply preserve progressing. The sky’s the restrict. He may be as nice as he needs to be.” The identical may be stated of the defence as a complete. Their monumental process — no Western squad has crossed over to the East and made a Gray Cup — begins in opposition to a crew that topped the league in internet yards (405.6) and scored 28.5 factors per recreation, third-most within the CFL. The Ticats (8-10) averaged simply over 30 offensive factors in opposition to the Lions (9-9) of their two conferences this season, with B.C. making an epic comeback in the one additional time recreation of the yr, successful 35-32, then following it up with an epic thud the next week at Tim Hortons Discipline, dropping 40-10. For a crew that went 2-7 on the highway, and averaged 30.2 factors in opposition to away from B.C. Place, Sunday represents an enormous problem. “I believe lots of people are going to depend us out. The percentages are in opposition to us,” Lokombo stated. “Clearly, we haven’t been good on the highway. But it surely’s totally different this time. “It’s by no means been completed earlier than, however this crew is so relentless, we’ve grown a lot over this season. If any crew might do it, it’s in all probability us.” [email protected]

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Subsequent Recreation

Sunday | East SemifinalB.C. Lions at Hamilton Tiger-Cats 10 a.m., Tim Hortons Discipline, TSN, TSN 1040 AM

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