Esks' biggest cheerleader misses parade

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos' biggest cheerleader missed the victory rally in the downtown core.

Relegated to the practice roster down the stretch of the season, offensive lineman Patrick Kabongo turned his focus on game days to pumping up his teammates and offering encouragement along the sidelines. At six-foot-six and 315 pounds, the mammoth sophomore tackle could be seen from the upper deck of B.C. Place during the West final waving a white towel while standing on the bench.

So, he would have loved yesterday's party-like atmosphere where thousands of fans cheered the Eskimos as they were introduced.

But Kabongo had a more important task to deal with on the other side of the world.

"He went to Nebraska (from Vancouver after the Grey Cup)," said Eskimo COO Rick LeLacheur. "He only had a day to get ready because he was going on a missionary (visit) he had volunteered for about eight months ago to Sri Lanka."

Kabongo is scheduled to return to North America just before Christmas.

SHORT YARDAGE: Agents are beginning to call ace returner Tony Tompkins.

The 23-year-old rookie negotiated his first contract with the Eskimos and is about to enter his option year, meaning he will have a window of opportunity to jump to the NFL.

However, Tompkins wants to stay in Edmonton. "If they'll have me back, I'll be glad to come back," he said.

LATE HITS: It will take quite some time for A.J. Gass to forget his 30th birthday. He celebrated the milestone event yesterday at the victory rally... Although third-string QB Jason Johnson could suddenly find himself in a much better spot on the Eskimo depth chart if Jason Maas is dealt, he isn't getting too excited. "All we are trying to do is enjoy this moment and the big team victory we had."


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