Tennessee didn’t have any players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, but a Vol defender was taken in the first round of the 2019 Canadian Football League Draft on Thursday night.
Outside linebacker Jonathan Kongbo was selected with the fifth overall pick of the 2019 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night. He becomes the first Vol in over two decades to be taken in the CFL Draft.
With the 5th overall selection in the #CFLDraft, the team has selected Jonathan Kongbo.
— WPG Blue Bombers (@Wpg_BlueBombers) May 3, 2019
The Vols have had a number of players throughout the years play in the CFL, but Kongbo is the first Vol to be selected in the actual CFL Draft since Paul Yatkowski was taken with the No. 3 overall pick by the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1993 CFL Draft.
Kongbo suffered a season-ending ACL injury during Tennessee’s road victory over Auburn during the 2018 season. Because of that injury, he didn’t get any opportunities in the NFL. Now, though, Kongbo will have a chance to play in the CFL and prove that he has what it takes to perform on the field again. He could stick with the CFL or eventually try to get a roster spot in the NFL down the line.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound defender could play either outside linebacker or defensive end for Winnipeg, though it seems likely he will miss most if not all of the 2019 CFL season.
Kongbo was born in the Congo, but his family moved to Canada when he was five. He started playing football in his senior year of high school and played for Holy Cross in Surrey, British Columbia. After playing for a year there, Kongbo signed on to play collegiate football with Wyoming and redshirted his freshman season. Then, Kongbo left Wyoming and enrolled at Arizona Western College in the JUCO ranks.
In his first season with Arizona Western, Kongbo became one of the highest-rated JUCO players in the 2016 recruiting class. Kongbo committed to the Vols, decommitted from them, then signed with UT on National Signing Day. He flashed some potential in his first year with Tennessee even though there was controversy in that year after he was moved to defensive tackle and had the infamous “FIFA cleat” tweet during the season.
For his second season with the Vols, Kongbo played exclusively at defensive end and totaled 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for loss. When Jeremy Pruitt was hired as head coach, he brought with him a new 3-4 defensive scheme, and Kongbo was moved to outside linebacker.
After a slow start to the season, Kongbo began to pick up his play as the SEC schedule picked up, and he was in the midst of one of his best games as a Vol when he suffered his ACL injury against Auburn. He finished that game with two tackles and an interception. His redshirt senior season ended after five games, and he totaled 11 tackles, an interception, and a pass defended.
In 30 career games with the Vols, Kongbo totaled 51 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two passes defended, and an interception he returned for a touchdown.