Lobendahn fills in nicely

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Joe Lobendahn had no trouble understanding the magnitude of the situation as he made his first start in the CFL.

When you've been dreaming about a career in professional football since before you were a teenager, it's easier to focus on the task at hand rather than worry about the guy you're stepping in for -- even when that man has been anointed as the Minister of Defence.

So it should come as little surprise that man responsible for stepping in where Barrin Simpson left off came up with six tackles as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earned a 32-28 victory over the Calgary Stampeders last week.

"I was very excited for my chance," said Lobendahn, as the Blue Bombers continued preparations for Friday's game at Rogers Centre against the Toronto Argonauts. "I did what I had to do. Everyone gets nervous and if you don't get nervous there's something wrong with you. After that first play, I wouldn't say it was smooth sailing, but the nerves went away.

"I was pretty happy, but I want to do more. Those are big shoes to fill, but you have to be a leader playing that position and I have to worry about what I have to do."

Lobendahn got the bug for football at the age of 10, when he was introduced to the game in Hawaii by his father Richard, who was the head coach of his Pop Warner team.

"He was always trying to help me get better and I thank him for that," said Lobendahn. "When I first started watching my two older brothers play football, there was a positive vibe. That's what I wanted to do and here I am, living the dream."

After a strong collegiate career with the Washington Huskies came to a close in 2005, Lobendahn signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions last summer and nearly made the team.

"I made it to the last day and it was a good accomplishment," said Lobendahn. "I have no regrets. I left everything on the field. If I'm up here for my whole career, that's fine with me. At least I'm doing something that I love."

Fellow Bombers linebacker Ike Charlton was at that Lions camp and was impressed by Lobendahn.

"He packs a punch," said Charlton. "You're always going to miss a guy like Barrin, but I knew Joe could pick up the slack for him."

Ross Hodgkinson, the Blue Bombers' director of football operations, said Lobendahn made his way onto the team's radar last season.

"We saw tape from a pre-season game with the Detroit Lions and he had something like eight or 10 tackles," said Hodgkinson. "You could tell he was a good football player. He's smooth, he's smart, he moves to the ball well and he anticipates.

DRAWBACK

"His only drawback from their standpoint was his size (5-foot-11, 235 pounds). He's more of a prototypical CFL linebacker."

Having a solid working relationship with Lobendahn's agent Mark Maren, who represents several other active Blue Bombers players, also helped get Lobendahn here after the Hamilton Tiger-Cats dropped him from their negotiation list.

Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry sees some similarities between Lobendahn and Simpson.

"Physically, he brings the same aggressiveness we were getting with Barrin," said Berry. "The longer he plays, the more he'll fit in with what's happening around him. Right now, he's probably just a split second behind where he needs to be and will be but that comes with playing time."


Videos

Photos