Former first-round CFL draft pick Jonathan Kongbo signs in The Spring League

Photo courtesy: CFL

Canadian defensive end Jonathan Kongbo has signed with The Spring League.

The 25-year-old was selected No. 5 overall in the 2019 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers following a standout career at the University of Tennessee. Once thought to be a surefire NFL Draft pick, Kongbo suffered a torn ACL that lowered his stock south of the border as he worked back to full health.

Kongbo joined the Blue Bombers in May 2019 and continued to rehabilitate his knee injury for the first third of the season. He eventually made his professional debut on August 1 against the Toronto Argonauts.

The six-foot-five, 255-pound defender appeared in 12 regular season games as a rookie, recording 12 tackles and one sack. He rotated along the defensive line during the postseason and recorded two tackles and one sack against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West Final.

Kongbo was released after the Grey Cup to pursue NFL opportunities and signed with the San Francisco 49ers. He was waived on August 27 with an injury designation and was released with an injury settlement the following week. He had remained a free agent ever since.

The Spring League is a developmental program for professional football players looking to get another shot at the NFL. Some are paid to play, others play in exchange for room and board, while some pay to participate.

Participating in The Spring League could help Kongbo prove that he’s finally healthy and ready for another NFL shot in 2021. He is not the only Canadian participating in the program as kicker Lirim Hajrullahu was recently named Player of the Week following a record-breaking performance.

Coming out of Holy Cross High School in B.C. as a three-sport athlete, Kongbo accepted a scholarship to the University of Wyoming. 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.

Kongbo played 30 games with 17 starts over three seasons with the Volunteers in the SEC as a linebacker and defensive lineman, recording 51 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.