Patrick Kabongo, right, of the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, shows off an autographed football to Leo Hayes High School footballers, from left, Brady Killam, Paul Sibley and Josh Campbell during a presentation at the school last night. Kabono was part of a delegation from the league in Moncton yesterday morning announcing details of a regular-season game to be played in that city.
Kabongo helps sell the CFL brand

By Robert Touchie

If Patrick Kabongo had his way, New Brunswick wouldn't host a single Canadian Football League regular-season game.

Instead, the province would house a balanced schedule of them with a full-fledged franchise of its own. At 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, few would step up to argue with the 31-year-old Edmonton Eskimos offensive lineman.

Kabongo was at Leo Hayes High School Tuesday to meet with students and Capital Area Minor Football Association (CAMFA) players as part of the CFL's marketing package promoting its Touchdown Atlantic event.

Details of the event were unveiled yesterday at a press conference in Moncton. CFL commissioner Mark Cohon announced the regular-season game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Eskimos on Sunday, Sept. 26 will be played at the new Stade Moncton Stadium on the campus of Universite de Moncton.

The game goes at 1 o'clock with what is expected to be a capacity crowd of more than 20,000 fans.

Along with Cohon and Kabongo, N.B. premier Shawn Graham and Moncton mayor George LeBlanc were on hand to help unveil the new Touchdown Atlantic logo for the big game.

Along with weekend-long festivities, it will include high school and university football games, and culminate with the CFL game on the Sunday.

"It's been a great reception here in Atlantic Canada. I love it here and I think it would be great to have a regular-season game here every year," said Kabongo, a CFL all-star and former Nebraska Cornhusker. "I really think that Moncton could actually support a team with it being the hub of the Maritimes. Geographically, it makes the most sense, even moreso than Halifax."

Kabongo had a captive audience with the youngsters from the Fredericton area, holding them spellbound for a 30-minute presentation during which he espoused the virtues of practicing well, working hard, and the importance of dedication to success on and off the playing field.

Along with Eskimos' communications representative Nicole Turenne, Kabonga distributed official league footballs, miniature helmets and other memorabilia - all signed - for the aspiring football players in attendance. No one in attendance left empty-handed.

"Patrick is one player who is exemplary for our team and our league with his community involvement," said Turenne in reference to Kabongo, who has won the David Boone Award with the team the last two years for his work in the Edmonton community.

"He's not just a great player. He's a really great person as well. He's a true Eskimo in every way,'' said Turenne.

After his presentation, Kabongo posed for photographs, took questions from the group and met with the student-athletes and parents for one-on-one interaction to the delight of his audience.

"This was really cool. It goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it," said Paul Sibley, a Grade 11 student and an offensive lineman with the Lions football team.

Sibley is hoping to play university ball after high school.

"When he mentioned that he was a basketball player who reluctantly got into football, it reminded of me of how I got into football. It took me some time before I fell in love with it, mainly after we got to hit people,'' said Sibley.

Leo Hayes star running back Josh Campbell was quick to reply when asked how many yards he could ring up if the Lions had a lineman the size of Kabongo blocking for him on the O-Line.

"Uh, a lot, a lot, definitely a lot," said Campbell, who returns to the Lions in the fall for his senior season.

"What struck me the most of what he said is that hard work matters. He only played one year of high school football before going on to star in the States at college and then in the CFL, it goes to show what anyone can do if they want to work hard."

CAMFA president Andrew Allaby hoped that the event would raise awareness in the community about minor football and spark interest in the game in Moncton.

"It is exciting for our kids to only have to drive an hour and a half to get out to see an actual live regular-season CFL football game, something they'd normally only see on television," said Allaby.

He noted that two tickets will be drawn for the September match by the association in a yet-to-be determined format.

Tyler Wheeler is hoping he might be that lucky guy.

"I'm definitely going up to the game. I won't miss it," said Wheeler, who as a graduating Grade 12 student and footballer, hopes to suit up at tight end with the UNB Red Bombers in the fall.

"The thing that gets me is just how big he (Kabongo) is. It's unreal that he is so big but he is still so calm, polite and nice."

* Tickets will cost as little as $29, more than half the tickets will cost less than $50 and the best seats in the stands will cost $79 (all prices include 13 per cent HST and are subject to service fees).

* Individuals and families can be the first to buy tickets by registering now at for a special 24-hour pre-sale that will take place on March 24.

* The general ticket sale will kick off on March 25.