Tackle Kabongo loses 45 pounds in time for camp
Vicki Hall, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2007
EDMONTON - Meet the new, slim trim version of Patrick Kabongo.
Rumour has it Kabongo tipped the scales at 370 pounds last season, although the imposing Edmonton Eskimos tackle refuses to confirm such an outrageous figure.
"I'm not telling," he said, swatting an imaginary bug with right paw. "It's a secret."
Eskimos tackle Kabongo is tested for his percentage of body fat last May during training camp. Kabongo reportedly weighed about 370 pounds at the time.
Secret or not, his teammates are stunned by the physical makeover that took place over the last six months. At the end of last season, the coaching staff ordered the imposing right tackle to adhere to a strict diet and hit the weight room in an attempt to make better use of his size, speed and aggression.
A friendly giant away from the field, Kabongo followed the program laid out by strength and conditioning coach Jeff Krushell. And come Saturday, he expects to weigh in at 325 pounds when the veterans report for medicals at the Edmonton Eskimos training camp.
"He left part of him somewhere," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "He looks really, really good. When you see him, you'll be taken aback."
Linebacker A.J. Gass can only marvel over the transformation.
"I've seen him slowly develop like that through the off-season," Gass said. "I've seen the pounds come off. You can finally see his shoulders and his neck. He's melting before our eyes. I can't wait to see how he moves on the field."
So how did the six-foot-six behemoth drop 45 pounds in less than six months?
"I didn't indulge as much as I wanted to," said Kabongo, 27. "Everybody has their thing. I just love cookies. Chocolate chip cookies with macadamia nuts.
"I don't eat past 7 p.m. I drink water, water, water. I eat lots of small meals. I had to go easy on the carbs. It's a lot of things."
But Kabongo isn't about to take full credit for his stunning makeover.
During the last six months, he hit the gym daily with Krushell, the new strength and conditioning coach. Day by day, fat transformed into muscle.
"It's a big operation," Kabongo said. "It's never just about Patrick Kabongo. It's about the Edmonton Eskimos."
The Eskimos -- in particular quarterback Ricky Ray -- need Kabongo to feel spry and nimble as he serves as a bodyguard on the right side and busts open holes for the running back.
"He already had such great feet for a big man," Maciocia said. "This will make him so much quicker. Endurance-wise, losing so much weight can only help him. And health-wise, it should help Patrick Kabongo as a person."
The Eskimos believe the converted defensive lineman has the physical tools to be a CFL all-star in spite of an up-and-down 2006 football season where teams took advantage of his inexperience and tendency to tire as the game went on.
"I think that experience is going to pay dividends in 2007," Maciocia said.
"We went through it with him last year. I know people criticized him and they criticized me for sticking with him. But people need time to learn. They need to go out there and do it. It's not any different in football than other walk of life."
Kabongo, for one, figures the sacrifice was worth it. Even if he did have to give up those chocolate-chip cookies with macadamia nuts.
But don't be fooled. Kabongo is still a big, big man who just might strike fear into much smaller defensive ends and linebackers who see him as an obstacle in the way of the quarterback.
"I shop at George Richards," he said. "I like my clothes baggy. I still wear XXXL or XXXXL shirts. I'm still 325 pounds. For the average person, that's still really big, right?"