Kabongo a keeper

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

For Patrick Kabongo's value to the Edmonton Eskimos - on and off the field - he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

For at least a short time this week, that has changed.

The hulking offensive lineman is the club's David Boone Award winner for this season.

He was formally given the award last night at the team's annual dinner at the Shaw Conference Centre.

"He is a great football player but a tremendous human being," said Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia.

"I am glad we stuck it out with him. Edmonton is getting the best of Patrick Kabongo - the player and person."

Switched from the defensive line to the O-line when he arrived in this city from Ottawa in a 2004 trade, Kabongo has become an all-star in the CFL.

The 29-year-old non-import doesn't get the headlines because he doesn't occupy a glamour spot on the field.

But to youngsters in this community, he is a critical role model.

"The kids adore him," said Mike Campbell, a director with the Boys & Girls Clubs.

"He works hard to give them a positive role model."

Being involved in more than 40 community events this year in Edmonton and north central Alberta, Kabongo has participated in nine events aimed at getting kids to stay in school, seven tour stops for DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and several Read-In-Week visits to French and English schools.

On top of all of that, he's a part-time employee with the Boys & Girls Clubs as a program support member.

"He is a great mentor and friend in a community where positive male role models are often in short supply, as almost 60% of the kids who attend our clubs come from single-parent families," continued Campbell.

"He doesn't have to be here. He is present because he cares."

Added Nick, a 15-year-old associated with the Boys & Girls Clubs: "Patrick is so funny and makes all the kids he works with laugh. He's awesome and he takes us on sweet field trips."

To Kabongo, community work is nothing out of the ordinary.

"I think it is part of who I am," said Kabongo.

"I am very honoured (to get the award), but mostly it goes out to the people of Edmonton.

"The community really makes us, we don't make ourselves.

"To give back is real important. There are a lot of people in need - kids that look up to role models."

With the Esks community relations department choosing Kabongo as this year's recipient of the award, he is now nominated to win the CFLPA's Tom Pate Award - for contributions to the league and community - during Grey Cup Week.

"I know a little of his upbringing in the inner-city of Montreal," continued Maciocia.

"He was coached by a gentleman that (does) a lot of community work on the island of Montreal. Now he wants to give back."

Soon it will be the Esks turn to give back to Kabongo.

Entering the option year of his contract in 2009, Kabongo would be highly sought after if he ever reached the free-agent market.

And the community would suffer a significant loss if Kabongo left.


Videos

Photos