Canadian defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo left a memorable impression on the Bombers front office.
“He’s the one where you do the film and you’re watching this long, athletic, aggressive, physical player playing at the University of Tennessee in the SEC against big time opponents and – as a group Ted [Goveia], Mike [O’Shea] and I – you just don’t see this very often in our draft, the film that you’re watching. He was in our mind the top prospect of just football ability and what you’re watching on film,” Winnipeg general manager Kyle Walters said.
Kongbo played 30 games – 17 starts – over three seasons with the Volunteers in the SEC (Southeastern conference) as a linebacker and defensive lineman amassing 51 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions including a 50-yarder returned for a touchdown and two knockdowns. The Surrey, B.C. native suffered torn knee ligaments – ACL and MCL – against Auburn University last October, which ended his senior season prematurely.
“The concern was the NFL interest with a player like that and then he unfortunately suffered a knee injury and had to have his surgery. It took a lot of time to figure out, a lot of energy was spent into the NFL interest, the health of the knee. He wants to get healthy and play football,” Walters said.
The Bombers had Kongbo ranked No. 1 on the draft board inside Investors Group Field. Walters was surprised Kongbo was still available when Winnipeg came in the clock holding the fourth and fifth overall selections in the first round. Kongbo had visited the Calgary Stampeders prior to the draft.
“It’s hard to predict. We thought maybe Edmonton at three could target a defensive end, Hamilton was a mystery with all those picks. If he wasn’t there at five we might have explored trading down. Once that third pick was announced we took an exhale,” Walters said.
“He’s just too good a talent – with two first-round picks – to not take and take our time with him until he gets healthy. Speaking with Al [Couture] and the surgeons they hope he’ll be ready sometime in July.”