Boseko Lokombo relies on instincts, athleticism to make all the right plays

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Oregon sophomore linebacker Boseko Lokombo has struck fear into opposing offenses this year with an impressive 25 tackles and two touchdowns from defensive plays this season. (Aaron Marineau/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Lucas Clark on Friday, Nov. 11 at 5:55 am.

More often than not, Boseko Lokombo finds himself in the right place at the right time.

Whether on the football field or the basketball court, Lokombo has natural instincts that simply can’t be taught and jaw-dropping athleticism that will leave an unsuspecting coach drooling.

In his two years playing for the Oregon football team, Lokombo, a redshirt sophomore linebacker, has scored three defensive touchdowns, including a blocked punt return against Washington State and a 67-yard interception return against Nevada earlier this season.

Chalk it up to preparation or just his pure football talent.

“I think it’s a mixture of both,” says fellow junior linebacker Michael Clay, Lokombo’s roommate freshman year. “Bo knows what he’s doing, so he’s gonna be in the right position. At the same time, he’s a freak of an athlete, and he just finds ways to make plays.”

Making plays has always come second nature for Lokombo, who was first introduced to football in the eighth grade by one of his two older brothers, Boloy, a senior in high school at the time.

Before that, Lokombo says he didn’t have much of an interest in football. Basketball and soccer were his preferred activities growing up, given that American football wasn’t nearly as popular in Canada during his middle school years in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

From the beginning, Lokombo’s skills on the court translated perfectly into his role on the football field. And after a dramatic growth spurt before his freshman year of high school, it didn’t take long for Lokombo to grasp that his future was inevitably on the gridiron.

Standout seasons as a prep freshman and sophomore led Lokombo and his father, Leon, to Oregon, where he entered South Eugene High School before his junior year in 2007. The move was only temporary for Lokombo, who returned to his family in Canada with a handful of Division I scholarship offers at the end of the year.

“I remember sitting with my family, and we just talked about each school’s pros and cons,” Lokombo says.

After speaking with his mother, Anne-Marie, and his four brothers and two sisters, Lokombo narrowed his choices to Oregon, California and Washington. Then three days after Christmas in 2008, Lokombo chose the Ducks, a program he became somewhat familiar with during his short stay in Eugene.

Oregon linebackers coach Don Pellum, who recruited Lokombo along with offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, clearly remembers the first time he witnessed Lokombo’s unbelievable athleticism during a basketball game his senior year.

“He took the baseline and two-hand dunked, and I had no idea that he was that athletic,” Pellum says. “You can see some things on the football field, but when I saw him in person, I was shocked.”

Lokombo scored 32 points that night, claiming it was far from his best performance.

“I was kind of struggling,” says Lokombo, who also received interest from a few small basketball schools. “I think maybe I was nervous because I was thinking about the coaches there.”

Redshirt sophomore Boseko Lokombo has been all over the field in his second year with the Ducks. The linebacker has two scores on the year, including an interception return and a blocked punt return. (Aaron Marineau/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Lokombo was featured as a running back and wide receiver in most of the high school film Oregon coaches watched, but Pellum projected him as an outside linebacker even with little experience at the position.

“You could see a very explosive skill set, a very athletic skill set,” Pellum says. “We thought this guy, for what we need at linebacker, fit what we’re looking for.”

Now standing 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, Lokombo has added to his raw athleticism with the physique that not only endures the blows of a college football season but also punishes those in his path. Nowadays, only junior Kiko Alonso (6-4, 240) and senior Josh Kaddu (6-3, 235) fill out more than Lokombo in Oregon’s linebacker rotation.

The extra pounds certainly help, but his feel for the game and nose for the ball is what continues to set him apart. In 22 career games, Lokombo has 61 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four passes defended and four fumbles recovered. He always seems to find the ball in one form or another, which Pellum credits to instincts and high football intelligence.

“He does a pretty good job of understanding the big picture,” Pellum says. “If you understand the big picture, you have an idea of where the ball’s going, (and) if you run to the ball then good things are going to happen.”

Lokombo, currently a journalism major, knows there’s constantly room for improvement. At 21, the redshirt sophomore says he’s still young and eager to become the most dominant linebacker he can with his two years of remaining eligibility.

By then, Lokombo hopes the NFL will be in his sight.

“It’s the next step, and it’s definitely one of the ultimate goals,” he says. “It’s a goal that I think all NCAA Division I players have, to play at the next level.”

And knowing Lokombo, it could be just the right time.