Everyone who has watched Nelson Lokombo play football over the past few seasons has deemed him as special.
On Tuesday, the 5-foot-11, 184-pound cornerback with the Saskatchewan Huskies discovered he’s being viewed the same way by the Canadian Football League.
Lokombo, the 2017 graduate of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary, was selected second overall in the CFL draft by the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the pick representing the highest that a B.C. high school football product has been selected since Calgary Dinos’ offensive lineman Sukh Chungh was also picked second overall by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2015.
Chungh, who played high school football for PoCo’s Terry Fox Ravens, currently plays for the B.C. Lions, the same team which boasts Lokombo’s older brother, linebacker Boseko Lokombo.
“I don’t know how to describe them,” Lokombo told TSN’s Claire Hanna of his emotions after his selection. “I am still kind of in shock, but it was all positive. I was very excited. Didn’t really see that coming but I got to talk to the coaching staff and they already know how they want to use me and I am excited to get going.”
In the lead-up to Tuesday’s draft, Lokombo had spoken with VarsityLetters.ca about the versatility in his game he was able to show the pro scouts after he was moved to the boundary halfback spot, one which allowed him to both blitz and drop back into space.
TSN draft analysts Farhan Lalji and Davis Sanchez both trumpeted the pick on the network’s national broadcast.
“When he first came in as a freshman, he played at the field corner, then they moved him to what is generally considered the most important position in the secondary, and that is that boundary halfback spot,” began Lalji, who while the head coach at New Westminster Secondary, coached against Lokombo during his high school years.
“Now where is he going to play in the CFL? They are going to give him a chance to compete in both spots, because the Riders might wind up starting two Canadians in the secondary,” added Lalji. “He likely gets a chance to play at the field corner first, but they will give him a look at the safety spot. When this kid gets his hands on the ball, look, I’ve seen him play way back in high school at W.J. Mouat in Abbotsford and he’s a threat to go the distance every time. One rival defensive coordinator told me that with the burst he has coming out of breaks, he can get from the sidelines to opposite hash in the blink of an eye.”
Added Sanchez, the North Delta Secondary grad and former Oregon Ducks and B.C. Lions cornerback: “This kid can play halfback, I think he can play corner, or he can be your safety. I talked to Paul Woldu, a former teammate of mine in Montreal, and he coaches at the University of Saskatchewan, and he said when this kid walked in at 17 years old, he turned to (Huskies head coach) Scott Flory and said ‘This kid can go to a CFL camp right now, right out of high school, and not look out of place.’ He’s that good. He’s a playmaker, he’s aggressive, he’s got instincts, he tackles. He’s got great hips. That is a great pick.”
Lokombo’s last university season in 2019 showed how he had rounded into such a coveted CFL prospect with four picks, two of which he took to the house as apart of 197 total return yards, to go along with three sacks on what was the stingiest defence in the Canada West.
“…the biggest thing the switch did was it showed that I could play in the box as well,” Lokombo told Varsity Letters last week. “Before, I wasn’t a really a kid who saw myself playing anything more than corner. But afterwards, it also switched my perspective and helped me realize I could handle more than I thought I could handle.”
Said Huskies head coach Flory: “He has the feet and the fluidity in his hips. He timed 4.66 in the 40 but I still think he’s faster than that. He’s kind of a low-hip runner. He has such an outstanding natural knee bend that from like 0-to-10 (yards), or 0-to-20 (yards), he is just off the charts.”
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