By: Steven Chang
It won’t be the first time Garry Peters suits up on the same team with one of his best friends, Kenny Ladler. Football has reunited them once again. This time they’ll be suiting up in orange and black.
In the opening hours of free agency, the Leos brought back Peters for two more seasons after he finished the 2019 campaign with four interceptions.
A couple of weeks later, they reunited the duo by adding Ladler who split his previous two seasons with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins before making the return up north.
Peters said the chemistry in the Lions’ secondary is going to be the next level.
“We all got a lot of chemistry together. You can’t do that in one day or two days,” said Peters on the outlook for 2020.
“We know what kind of talent we got so I just want to see what we can do when we put it all together this year.”
As far as the secondary goes, the club has also brought back Aaron Grymes and T.J. Lee for another two seasons. Like Peters said, that group should be stacked up with playmakers for this upcoming season. Plus, the addition of Ladler, who began playing on the same field as Peters at the age of six.
They started off as kids in the Atlanta area, playing in the same park but different teams. Ladler’s youth team found a way to recruit Peters to make him a part of their own.
“I used to watch Kenny’s team because my team played before their games. So, it was just like me watching them play and all the ballers they have on their team,” Peters said.
“The next year, I joined their team and I played with him from the time we were six years old.”
Peters and Ladler remembered the team would spend days together at each other’s house swimming, barbecuing and just being kids.
“We had a pretty solid trio on our team and players to be one of the best teams at the time in the park,” Ladler said.
It was all love among the team where they bonded closer through football and off-field gatherings. Peters recalled not having a bad season as a kid because everyone had a competitive spirit that was second nature within them.
After youth league, the duo remained close but the school district boundary caused Peters and Ladler to enrol in different middle schools where they eventually faced each other in the final game of the season.
They vividly recall what exactly went down in a thrilling middle school championship game.
“It was crazy because we were both undefeated at the time. I remembered I was at quarterback and Kenny was playing safety and a little bit of running back,” Peters recalls.
“We were up 14-zip at half-time. They came back and beat us 16-14. That stuck with me for the rest of my life.”
Peters and Ladler cherished the early days considering that would be the last time they’re together before going separate ways in high school and college.
Peters went on to play four seasons at “Death Valley” for Clemson and spent 2015 with the Carolina Panthers. Ladler played at Vanderbilt for four seasons before landing with the Buffalo Bills back in 2014.
Then a full circle moment occurred that brought two childhood best friends back together in the same uniform.
Peters hopped on the plane to Edmonton in 2016 where he was ready to begin his CFL journey. When he arrived at the Edmonton International Airport, he wasn’t expecting to see a long-lost friend at 11:30 p.m.
Ladler was already waiting to get picked up from the airport and he suddenly heard a familiar voice.
“Oh, what? What the heck are you doing here?” Peters said shockingly to Ladler.
They would go on to play two seasons together with the green and gold and made it to the Division finals before ultimately falling short of a Grey Cup appearance. Losing those games left Peters and Ladler gutted and hungry for a Grey Cup win.
Following the 2017 season, Ladler received a CFL All-Star selection due to his versatility of being able to cover route runners and smack his opponents backwards.
As for Peters, he followed GM Ed Hervey to B.C. where he will be returning for a third season in orange in 2020.
Both of them had already established a relationship with Hervey in Edmonton. Ladler said it was an easy decision for him to join the Lions after he spoke to Hervey on the phone – especially when Peters did a convincing job recruiting him as well.
“Ed found me in Edmonton and he gave me my first opportunity to play in the CFL. It was an easy decision for me to feel comfortable to go over with the BC Lions because I’m familiar with a lot of players,” Ladler said.
Now the two will once again be in the same huddle. They have a high expectation going into this upcoming season, whenever it begins. Peters and Ladler are fired up for another title run.
“We’ve got to get back to the playoffs again. I’m all for it. I’m ready to play ball. If this is a lesser season, it doesn’t matter to me,” Peters said.
Added Ladler: “Anytime we’re on the football field, we’re ready to go. Make no bones about it, we’re coming for the championship this year.”
They continue to put the time in the weight room and study game films as they wait patiently for the upcoming season.
Reunited and it feels so good.