Surrey’s Jonathan Kongbo has been released by the CFL’s Grey Cup-winning Winnipeg Blue Bombers so that he can pursue NFL opportunities.
The defensive lineman, a Holy Cross Regional High School graduate, played as a rookie for the Bombers this season, after being selected fifth overall in the 2019 CFL Draft.
On Dec. 5, just 11 days after the team’s Grey Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger Cats, the organization announced the move to release Kongbo, 23.
“When we selected Jonathan in last year’s CFL Draft, he chose to sign with our organization rather than wait a season to continue training,” Bombers general manager Kyle Walters said in a statement posted to cfl.ca.
“This agreement came with the understanding that if he received any NFL interest, we would work with him to help him pursue those interests.
“Jonathan is a great young man and deserves the opportunity to explore all avenues in his career. We wish him the best and certainly will welcome his return if nothing comes to fruition in this regard.”
In 12 games with the Bombers in 2019, the six-foot-six Kongbo made 12 tackles and one sack.
Jonathan Kongbo | CFL Rookie Tape | 2019 Grey Cup Champion pic.twitter.com/tqQ7ovdakC
— Jonathan Kongbo (@King_Kongbo) December 13, 2019
GREY CUP CHAMPS!!! Thank You God! To think a year ago I thought I’d never play again!! Great full and thankful to be a Blue Bomber💙🏆 pic.twitter.com/4L7AjIWyFZ
— Jonathan Kongbo (@King_Kongbo) November 25, 2019
Kongbo overcame a serious injury at the start of the CFL season to play for the Bombers.
With the Tennessee Volunteers of the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference (SEC), the hulking “King” Kongbo tore the ACL in his right knee during a game against Auburn in October of 2018, ending his senior season and, ultimately, his dream of being drafted by an NFL team earlier this year.
In May, during an interview at his family’s Clayton-area home, Kongbo lamented a knee injury that required surgery and months of rehabilitation.
In his final season of U.S. college football, Kongbo had hoped to generate interest among NFL teams at the draft – something that didn’t happen.
“At first I was a little upset about it, but in hindsight it’s just another part of my story because it’s been so unique, right,” Kongbo told the Now-Leader last spring. “I felt bad for myself for those first three or four days after it happened, and then I realized that I’m not going to get anywhere if I just sat there and sulked about it, feel pity and all that, and I really attacked my rehab process really vigorously, right away. I got hurt on a Saturday, got into surgery on the Tuesday and started rehabing.
“It’s not done, you know what I mean?” he added. “Obviously playing in the NFL is still a dream of mine, still a goal of mine, but I take things one step at a time, yeah.”
While at Holy Cross, Kongbo was something of an accidental football star – a guy who hadn’t played the game until Grade 12 at the Fleetwood-area Catholic school. He’d been a basketball player at Kitsilano Secondary until transferring to Holy Cross, where the Crusaders’ coaches eventually coaxed him to try football, a game he didn’t embrace at first but grew to love.
From Holy Cross he went to junior college in Wyoming and Arizona Western before joining the Vols in Tennessee, where he played prime-time games against some of the biggest-name teams in college football – Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs, LSU Tigers and the like.