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May 21, 2019

Camp Notebook | Konar Follows In Dad’s Footsteps

Kamloops- Just for fun, we start this one off by hopping into the time machine. It was the first week of 2018 training camp when GM Ed Hervey- his defensive battles seemingly set for the Kamloops grind- swung a deal with the Tiger-Cats, sending a third-round pick to Steeltown for defensive lineman Davon Coleman. A relative unknown to most Lions fans at the time, Coleman would earn a West Division All-Star nod and the team’s nomination for Most Outstanding Player.

Fast forward to year two of the Hervey-led regime and it appears they have landed another big fish on that side of the ball. Adam Konar was on the practice field Monday morning, hours after he arrived in Kamloops and put pen to paper on a contract with his hometown Lions. It has indeed been a whirlwind for the North Vancouver native since he was cut loose by the Eskimos over the weekend.

“I’m fired up to be out here and just to get the opportunity to not only play but play at home,” Konar said.

“It’s a great opportunity and obviously being home makes it even better. Being on this field in Kamloops is a dream come true.”

It’s also a homecoming in more ways that one. His father Kevin Konar suited up for the Lions as a linebacker for the entire 1980s, a memorable decade for the franchise that included three Grey Cup appearances and a championship win in 1985. Adam may have been born four years after his dad last strapped on a helmet but knows all about the legacy he is following.

“He was excited I signed, simple as that,” the young Konar said.

“It was awesome to have him as a role model and coach growing up. It gives you something to push for and gives you non-stop goals to try and achieve. That is what has been able to push me; the chance to do something similar to what he did as a Lion.”

Drafted by the green and gold in round three of the 2015 draft, Konar recorded 94 tackles and three interceptions two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles in his 34 appearances. His most productive campaign came in 2017 and that’s what the brass had in mind when they brought him into work with the stable of linebackers they already have. Konar played primarily at the SAM linebacker position, a starting spot that was vacated by Bo Lokombo signing in Montreal. There was also some room for a new body after the surprise retirement of fellow local boy Terrell Davis on the eve of camp.

Still, he’s joining a defence with some pretty decent playmakers.

“Definitely. It’s also a chance to work with a new coach in DeVone Claybrooks and a guy like Stubler who has been around for a long time,” he said.

“It definitely feels like we’re building something special. I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

Another thing that will make Konar’s transition back to the west coast easier is the fact he gets to be reunited with a few of his old friends in Edmonton, including quarterback Mike Reilly.

“That also is what made it an easy decision to come out here,” explained Konar.

“It’s going to be tough. I never got an interception off him in practice while we were with Edmonton so there is a challenge for myself this season (laughs). It’ll be exciting to face him every day in practice again and of course to have him on my squad come game day.”

Having his Dad to lean on was certainly a bonus, as was the chance to play for the prestigious Vancouver College Fighting Irish program. The linebacker insists it was at O’Hagan Field where he learned how to be a winner and took some lifelong lessons from longtime head coach Todd Burnett.

“It definitely set me up for my whole future playing there,” explained Konar.

“He’s the type of coach that knows every position on the football field and knows every little detail. I owe a lot to coach Burnett.”

Yearly reminder that once the roster is set before camp, pleasant surprises could soon follow.

Training Camp Day Two: Ready To Hit

Monday’s sessions involved a lot of the same “install” type periods, but the good news was there was no drop off in the intensity we saw on opening day at Hillside Stadium. For a guy trying to set his own standard and have his players buy into what the staff is preaching, DeVone Claybrooks was pretty satisfied at the progress so far.

“You don’t want selfish and non-disciplined things to hurt your team and that’s just the way we’re coaching it,” Claybrooks said.

“We’re coaching it to the standard. Every action has a consequence and we’re dealing with those accordingly. We’re dealing with them in the BC way.”

With Monday’s afternoon session still to come, players will be anxious to get the pads on and start a little more contact drills on Tuesday morning. Claybrooks can sense that in the group.

“We’re able to get four good practices in with an understanding of what we want and what we expect,” added the head coach.

“This will be very similar to what we do in the season. Now we get to crank up the intensity a little bit and see who can really fit where they’re supposed to fit, see which offensive linemen can be physical and see which defensive linemen can hold a double team. It should be fun and exciting. I know I’m excited but I don’t have to go out there and bang so it’s a little different.”

Meanwhile, the revamped offence continues to click and will also benefit from some padded work starting on day three. After an offseason of work with him both on the field and in the film room, Bryan Burnham has enjoyed establishing more chemistry with Reilly and the high-powered attack.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun come the regular season,” said Burnham.

“You just can’t help but admire how dedicated Mike is. Meetings will end upstairs at 9 (PM) and he will still want to talk and look at some more film. At that point, guys want to head back to their rooms or connect with their loved ones back home, but our night doesn’t end until we’re content.”

Now in his sixth training camp, Burnham is of the mind this will represent his best chance at that elusive Grey Cup ring.

“It fuels me more and more every year,” explained number 16.

“When you’re a rookie coming in, speaking for myself, I didn’t really know much about the Grey Cup. I was coming up here thinking I was going to get some film and maybe head back down south. But I’m here, I’m a BC Lion. I want to win a championship, man. It’s been overdue for a few years. That’s pretty much the only thing fuelling me now.”

And a big reason all the hard work is put in from these early days in Kamloops.

Training Camp Schedule

The Lions will be back on the field at Hillside Stadium from 3-5:15 PM on Monday afternoon. Tuesday’s morning session goes from 8:30-10:35 AM and then another afternoon practice from 3-5:15. All training camp practices are open to the public.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com