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‘Disconnect’: B.C.-raised Kongbo didn’t last long with BC Lions, who quickly traded him

‘We signed him, we wanted him and it wasn’t going to work out,’ Lions coach Campbell says
Defensive lineman Jonathan Kongbo speaks to Hamilton Tiger-Cats reporters in a video posted to on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.

Well, that was quick.

On Monday (June 5), BC Lions announced they’d traded Surrey-raised football player Jonathan Kongo, just 15 days after the CFL team signed the standout defensive lineman.

The Lions acquired a 2024 draft pick from Hamilton Tiger-Cats in exchange for Kongbo, who had signed with the Lions partway through training camp and dressed for just one pre-season game, June 1 against Calgary.

It’s not clear exactly what happened, but it seems like team chemistry was a problem.

“I think it just wasn’t gonna be a good fit,” Lions head coach Rick Campbell said on Sportsnet 650 radio on Wednesday (June 7).

“You know, we wanted it to work out, that’s why we signed him, but sometimes if players aren’t comfortable with the situation, or it’s not going to work out, then it’s better to move on. It was quite clear to me that he wasn’t comfortable with the situation, and that’s too bad.”

Campbell made it clear that it wasn’t Kongbo’s on-field performance or style of play that was a problem.

“No, it was just being comfortable on the team,” the coach said during the Halford & Brough morning show.

“For some reason, there was some disconnect there. We signed him, we wanted him and it wasn’t going to work out, and it’s just the way it goes. It happens once in awhile, and like I said we would have loved to have him. It didn’t seem to meshing really well and so we, you know, gave him a new home.”

After kicking off in Calgary Thursday (June 8), the Lions’ home-opener for the 2023 season is Saturday, June 17 at BC Place Stadium, where LL Cool J is among pre-game performers.

On Twitter, after being traded, Kongbo said this about his brief time with the Lions: “’Not a fit’ because I called out star players not showing up for practice, and guys not wanting to work out. Culture matters, it’s called pro football for a reason.”

The 27-year-old Kongbo, a Holy Cross graduate who starred for the Surrey-area school team a decade ago, has played in the NFL and also won two Grey Cup championships with Winnipeg Blue Bombers in recent years.

Last October he dressed for a pair of games with Denver Broncos after signing a reserve/futures deal in January. In a prime-time game against Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos lost 12-9 in overtime, but Kongbo scored a personal goal of making his NFL debut five games into Denver’s season.

In Hamilton, Kongbo will have to quickly adapt to a new team just days before the start of the CFL season.

“I’ve played a couple times here and it’s good to finally be on the other side, getting with the guys, see the culture around here, how guys are working, so it’s been a really good couple days,” Kongbo told Ti-Cats reporters Tuesday (June 6).

He talked about the “hard-working, blue-collar spirit” of Hamilton and how he thinks he’s a perfect fit for the city.

Asked what kind of player he is, Kongbo responded: “Fearless, tenacious, I love the game, love the work, love the cameraderie, I love getting after it, I love winning, so to all the Ti-Cats fans, you’re getting a player who loves to compete, a player who loves to get after it and a player who loves to win.”

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.

Born in Zaire, Konbgo moved with his family to Canada at age five.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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