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Adam Konar’s first CFL start – in his hometown no less – had a storybook feel to it.
The 23-year-old Vancouver native made nine tackles (seven on defence, two on special teams) and recorded the first quarterback sack of his pro career in a 30-27 victory over the B.C. Lions in the Edmonton Eskimos season opener on June 24.
“Just being back playing defence is awesome because the past couple of years I haven’t been playing any defence,” Konar said. “It’s a lot of fun to be out there.”
The third-year veteran had mostly played special teams during his first 11 CFL regular-season games.
“I had all the family out, so it was nice to get the first start back home,” he added.
Running down elusive B.C. quarterback Jonathon Jennings for an eight-yard sack, which forced the Lions to kick a field goal midway through the fourth quarter, was the highlight of Konar’s night.
“It just kind of opened up for me,” he said about the play. “I thought Jennings was going to run right through the hole so I ran right through there and ended up chasing him down.”
Getting outstanding performances from their weakside linebacker position is nothing new for the Eskimos in recent seasons. First Dexter McCoil in 2015 and then Deon Lacey last season played starring roles to earn opportunities in the NFL.
“It was really beneficial for me to be able to watch both of those guys for a couple of years,” said the six-foot-two, 225-pound Konar, who believes he was able to learn different things from both McCoil and Lacey.
Even though those are big shoes to fill, Konar is used to that kind of pressure after following in his father’s footsteps for most of his life. Kevin Konar played linebacker for 10 years with B.C. from 1980-89.
“I feel like I have good instincts on the football field,” Adam said. “I feel like I got that from my dad. He passed on some of his football instincts to me.”
The younger Konar also worked hard while practising at the position the last couple of years, “so I felt prepared enough to be able to step in and play it” after Cory Greenwood, a former NFL player signed as a free agent during the off-season to replace Lacey, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee early in training camp.
Kevin Konar is the reason Adam started playing football and has been a huge influence over the years. He grew up seeing momentos of Kevin’s career – like the 1985 Grey Cup ring and old football jerseys – in their house and heard stories about his father’s impressive career.
“We would always go out to Lions games together when I was younger,” Adam said. “He was definitely a big motivator for me to want to play football.
“Even going through high school and university, it was always my goal or plan to go play in the CFL.”
What did Adam like about football when he was a youth?
”I just liked playing it, to be honest,” he said. “There wasn’t anything specific about it; I just enjoyed playing the game. It was simple for me.”
Kevin was already finished with football before Adam was born, so the only times Adam has seen his dad play were on replays of old classic games on ESPN.
Kevin coached Adam’s football teams at times while he was growing up. Adam was a safety and running back in high school (his team played American rules, so 11 players on the field instead of 12). He also played basketball and participated in track and field events.
“I personally liked safety in American football a little more than linebacker,” Adam said. “It’s kind of similar to what linebacker is in Canadian football.”
Adam was the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds’ rookie of the year in 2011, but he hadn’t focused on his school work and had to leave UBC before the 2012 season. He joined the Langley Rams of the Canadian Junior Football League that year and was named the B.C. conference’s outstanding defensive player.
“I was planning on going back to UBC, but my grades just weren’t good enough to get back into UBC,” Konar said. “I guess (Calgary Dinos coach Blake Nill) heard that somehow and contacted my dad and I got into talks with him. It all happened pretty quickly; within a few days I had to make a decision.
“Once I got to Calgary, I was a little better with school so I didn’t have any problems after that.”
Konar, who was selected by the Eskimos in the third round of the 2015 Canadian college draft, broke an ankle in high school and tore an ACL while with the Dinos; both injuries occurring during practice.
He’s also had injury problems with the Eskimos, making three appearances on the six-game injured list during his first two years. He missed the start of the 2016 season while still recuperating from microfracture surgery during the winter and later sat out with a hamstring injury. But he returned to the active roster in time to play both playoff games, recording a forced fumble in the East Division final against the Ottawa Redblacks.
Konar played the Eskimos’ first two games with a cast on his right hand to protect a thumb injury, but said: “I’m not too worried because at least you can play with a cast.”
The highlight of Konar’s first two seasons with the Eskimos was winning the Grey Cup in 2015, enabling him to match his father’s CFL championship ring.
“I got to go out (to Winnipeg) for the Grey Cup and everything,” he said. “Not a lot of players even get chances to win a ring, so it was still nice to be a part of a championship team even though I was injured that year.”
It’ll be interesting to see how their careers stack up after a few more seasons.