Making the most of second chances

KEN WIEBE

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Joe Lobendahn knows a thing or two about dealing with adversity.

So while some might struggle with the responsibility of filling in for a guy like Barrin Simpson, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers new middle linebacker just rolls with the punches.

While some see enormous shoes to fill, Lobendahn sees an opportunity to show what he can do.

And when you're a guy who wasn't even sure his professional football career would get off the ground, it's only natural to do everything in your power to seize that opportunity.

"I'm just having fun out there playing," said Lobendahn, who signed with the Blue Bombers after a solid training camp with the Detroit Lions in 2007. "I'm excited to be out there. Every week and every day, I learn something new about myself and about the game. I just go out there and do my thing.

"I just want to play ball and that's it. That's what I love to do and it's want to do for the rest of my life, or at least as long as I can do it."

Before coming to the CFL, Lobendahn did his thing as a standout collegiate player for the University of Washington Huskies.

But even those college days weren't without difficulty.

"I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) twice and to come back from an ACL injury is tough," said Lobendahn. "The first one happened in 2003 at home against Indiana on the second play. It was a running play, the running back cut back, I tried to change direction and my knee just went."

Lobendahn said the break from football gave him a new appreciation for the game.

"It was tough because it was my first major injury, but it made me love the game even more," said Lobendahn, who considered going to the University of Wisconsin before choosing the Huskies. "It made me look at things from the outside and it made me a better player."

Thanks to his comeback from the knee injury, Lobendahn earned the Huskies' Most Inspirational Player award.

"I was never a very talkative leader," said Lobendahn. "I lead more by example."

Being able to come back from the first injury was big, but his college career didn't have a happy ending as another torn ACL (on the same knee) cost him the final four games of his senior season.

That second injury was the one that threatened to take away all the things he had fought for.

"I was sad, but at the same time injuries are part of the game," said Lobendahn. "You have to block that out."

Likely scared away from the two knee injuries, Lobendahn went undrafted and didn't receive any NFL tryout offers.

Disappointed, but not ready to throw in the towel, Lobendahn was working two jobs in Seattle and doing extensive rehab on his knee to get back to 100%.

Unhappy by the lack of phone calls, Lobendahn took action and fired his agent, then started making his own calls to NFL teams.

By the spring of 2007, Lobendahn finally found a taker in the Lions and his strong camp there put him on the Blue Bombers radar.

"The Lions brought me in for a rookie camp and that was kind of like my interview," said Lobendahn, who lasted until the final cuts.

While watching the energetic Lobendahn during his rookie season in the CFL, it's easy to see why the Lions kept him around.

Fellow Blue Bombers linebacker Cam Hall has been impressed with how quickly Lobendahn has picked up the Canadian game.

"Joe has got a little baptism by fire, so to speak," said Hall, who is handling the defensive signal calling. "Getting thrown in there the way that he did and ultimately filling in for Barrin, who is arguably the best middle linebacker in the CFL. Obviously, it's a tough thing to do but I think he's done pretty well.

"He reads (the play) really well and he's also got pretty good speed for his size, which has helped him out on the bigger field."


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