The Winnipeg Blue Bombers 2019 first round pick, Canadian defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo practiced for the first time with the team on Monday.
“A lot of respect for the way he’s just stuck with it and kept working hard,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said.
“It’s not easy for a player to be shelved with the way the rules are not being able to participate on the field.”
Every single team had a first-round grade on Kongbo heading into the draft, but a torn ACL suffered last October during his senior season with the University of Tennessee created uncertainty. But the Bombers chose him fifth overall, signing three-year contract, according to 3DownNation’s John Hodge.
Kongbo, surprisingly, went unselected in the 2019 NFL draft and didn’t even sign an undrafted free agent contract or accept a rookie mini-camp invite. Most Canadian franchises expected Kongbo to be in the NFL.
Coming out of Holy Cross high school in B.C. as a three-sport athlete, Kongbo was highly touted in basketball and track along with football. He accepted a scholarship to the University of Wyoming, although he redshirted during the 2014 season and then transferred to Arizona Western college.
After gaining a reputation as the No. 1 junior college defensive line prospect while in Arizona, Kongbo received scholarships offers from Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, USC, Florida State, Washington, Ole Miss and Tennessee. The six-foot-six, 264-pounder chose the Volunteers.
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. He won the 2018 John Stucky award as Tennessee’s best performer in the weight room.
Throughout his collegiate career, Kongo lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker spots, versatility that’s highly coveted in the CFL. The Bombers view Kongbo as a rare prospect.
If Kongbo keeps rehabbing at the current place he could suit up for the Bombers sooner rather than later.