During last week’s NFL Draft in Nashville, not one Tennessee player made the cut for the third time in five years.
One former Vol, however, saw his dreams of playing at the professional level come to fruition on the international stage this week.
On Thursday, the Canadian Football League held its annual draft and former Tennessee outside linebacker/defensive end Jonathan Kongbo was selected in the first round to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Kongbo, a native of British Columbia, came to Knoxville by way of Holy Cross Regional High School (Surrey) and Arizona Western College prior to the 2016 season. According to the 247Sports composite JUCO rankings, Kongbo was a four-star prospect.
A highly touted recruit, Kongbo’s collegiate career was at times up and down and his 2018 senior season was cut short during a road win at Auburn on Oct. 13 due to an ACL injury. Before the arrival of Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt in 2018, Kongbo primarily played on the defensive line, but was repositioned to outside linebacker ahead of his final season.While the injuries and inconsistency may have played a part in Kongbo’s standing with the NFL, the chance to return to Canada to play professional football was also a dream come true.
“As a Canadian, I’d be perfect for that league,” Kongbo told reporters during Tennessee’s annual Pro Day on March 14. “I just want an opportunity. That’s just all I’m looking for.”
In all, Kongbo saw action in 30 games during his Tennessee career, starting in 17 of them. He totaled 51 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions.His interception off of Drew Lock against Missouri during the 2016 season was returned 55 yards for a touchdown to put the exclamation point on a 63-37 win at Neyland Stadium.
Selected as the fifth overall pick, Kongbo becomes the first Tennessee player to be taken in the CFL Draft in more than two decades. Former UT defensive lineman Paul Yatkowski was the last, selected as the No. 3 overall pick to the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1993 draft.