Thunderbirds high on Patommel

Karson Patommel

At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Karson Patommel can run the 40 in 4.6 seconds.

Combine those numbers with his ability to play a zillion positions well for the VSS Panthers and he was an easy recruit for the UBC Thunderbirds.

“I recruit athletes,” said new T-Bird head coach Blake Nill, 53. “I can teach them how to play football, but they have to have athleticism and Karson definitely has that.”

Patommel, who turned 18 in February, saw time at runningback, tight end and linebacker for Sean Smith’s final-four Cats last season. He rang up a three-touchdown game against the Fulton Maroons.

“The thing about Karson, first of all, is he has good size,” said Nill, who coached the University of Calgary Dinos for nine seasons, leading them to six straight Hardy Cup titles as Canada West champions and three Vanier Cup appearances.

“He plays with a lot of tempo and is a real intelligent kid. Like all high school players, he needs to get bigger and faster but he has the foundation to be a very good college player; he’s a bright kid. He has the mind-set to be a very effective linebacker.”

While Nill says red-shirting as a rookie is never a bad thing, he gives Patommel a legitimate chance to make the team.

“If you’re the best guy for the position, then you’re gonna be on the field,” said Patommel. “It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

Patommel and fellow linebacker Carson Lebrecque joined Zac Kronbauer, offensive lineman Jeff Hiscoe and defensive back John Garvie on the provincial all-star roster. Patommel was earlier chosen the Okanagan’s Top Defensive Player.

A captain with VSS, he interviewed well with the T-Birds.

“I told them I have never given up in a game no matter how far we are down. I push hard in the weight room and I’m always seeking to improve and he seemed to like that.

“They didn’t do great last year (2-6), but they have a ton of young talent coming in this year. Blake Nill did a great job recruiting. He got the red-shirt quarterback (Michael O’Connor) from Penn State so we’re looking good for the years coming up. I’m really hoping they can improve and I can help them win a championship. I know I gotta get bigger because I’ll be playing against 24-year-olds.”

Patommel used used to play soccer and was attending an Okanagan Junior A Sun game when a coach suggested he try football.

“I did pretty good right off the start and I played every position except quarterback, but I never thought I’d be like this. It’s my calling I guess. Tim Thorpe has been a great role model for me. He was a good runningback and he coached the linebackers too. And Smith is a fantastic coach. He does a lot of work in the film room and he’s really helped me improve my game and my knowledge of the game.”

A huge Seahawk fan – he loves the awesome duo of Earl Thomas and Cam Chancellor – Patommel will study kiniesology or sciences with an eye on med school. He played two years of box lacrosse and enjoys mountain biking.

Smith believes Patommel has the physical presence to be successful at the next level.

“I remember the first time I saw him play senior as a Grade 9 and he didn’t look out of place at all. He is big, strong and runs very well for his size – which is a rare combination.”

And Smith says Patommel has the intangibles to boost the UBC football program.

“First, he loves to work out and has been hitting the gym hard since our season ended. He has a pretty big frame, so he has lots of room to get even stronger than he is now. I’ve always been impressed with Karson’s instincts and he can read plays very well. I can’t count how many times he either tipped or intercepted balls the past two years based on his ability to anticipate. He is also a very intelligent player and can pick things up quickly.

“I think the UBC coaches saw the same things and are excited to have him for the next five years. We were very lucky to have his playmaking ability on our side for the past two seasons and we look forward to him shining at the next level.”

While Patommel is a strong signing, Nill’s biggest coup no doubt is the commitment of O’Connor, who was ranked the No. 6 quarterback by ESPN in the 2014 recruiting class.

The Thunderbirds have not had a winning season since 2004 and are a combined 24-56 over the last 10 years,

“Having Michael, who was recognized as one of the this year’s top NCAA transfer prospects, commit to UBC over countless offers speaks volumes to the academic reputation of this university and the culture we are building with the Thunderbirds football program,” said Nill.

A native of Ottawa, O’Connor played his final two years of high school football in the U.S. Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 230 pounds, he played his junior season at the Baylor School in Tennessee, before attending the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. where he played under the tutelage of former Heisman Trophy Winner Chris Weinke.

He led IMG to an 8-2 record in 2013 throwing for 1,804 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games. He was named an Under Armour All-American.

“Michael is an outstanding, pro-style quarterback,” said Nill. “He is very intelligent player whom is confident in his ability. He can make all the throws and will come into compete and raise the bar at the quarterback position here at UBC.”

Former CFL head coach Steve Buratto is the T-Birds’ associate head coach and offensive coordinator, while Paul Orazietti runs special teams.

UBC’s main camp goes in mid-August and their first CIS game is Aug. 29 at Laval.

The T-Birds’ four regular-season home games are all on Saturdays: Sept. 12 versus the Regina Rams, Sept. 25 against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, Oct. 17 versus the University of Calgary Dinos and Oct. 31 against the University of Manitoba Bisons.

The B.C. Lions take on the Edmonton Eskimos in a CFL exhibition Friday, June 19 at UBC’s David Sidoo Field at Thunderbird Stadium.