The same can likely be said for all of their Lion teammates and counterparts across the Canadian Football League. But just take a couple of minutes to speak to Garry Peters and Kenny Ladler and you’ll get a sense of just how antsy they are to strap on the pads and start hitting. The defensive back duo joined 1st and Now presented by iA Financial Group to talk about excitement for the coming season, growing up as friends and combatants in Atlanta and much more. Yeah, this ATL duo is primed for big things after more than a year away from the grid iron.
“I’m ecstatic, I ain’t going to lie,” said Peters.
“Even last year, I was excited to come for the season but just for it to go by made me that much hungrier and made me have that much more love for the game. (I) really don’t take it for granted because it can be gone at any moment. For me, I can’t wait to get up there and be with the guys.
I know the fans can’t wait; my teammates can’t wait. I talk to them all the time and bug RP (Ryan Phillips) all the time. He’s probably getting tired of me (laughter). I’m so excited to start to have DB meetings. I’m ready to learn and just ready to grow, be better as a team and as a unit. I can’t wait to get up there.”
Ladler was a key addition to the Lions in 2020 free agency after NFL stints with the New York Giants and Washington Football Team. Once 2020 was wiped out, the squad released him from his contract to have another go down south. He then re-signed with the Lions early this year. One of the other things that has Ladler excited for this new chapter in orange is the chance to work with Phillips.
“I remember while playing in 2017 he basically wrote up an article on his favourite DBs in the league and he had me as one of the top ones in there. He basically broke me down to like a molecule on my game. It was right on point. I definitely have respect for his perspective on the game. I’m excited to see his coaching style and how he works with his players.”
Secondary Should Make Headlines
Both Peters and Ladler are also jacked up to be part of an experienced group of defensive backs. The unit includes veteran TJ Lee plus a couple of key free agent additions in Marcus Sayles and Anthony Cioffi. They look forward to being counted on to make big plays.
“Best secondary in the league,” proclaimed Ladler.
The best part about these two players is that they are versatile. Ladler can suit up at the nickel position while Peters has played both corner and halfback during his time with the Lions.
“I know TJ; that’s a dog. I know how he plays. TJ is one of the best DBs in the league so just to add to that unit, and I talk to Cioffi all the time so just to know his mindset and know where the guys are at, I’m just excited about what’s to come,” added Peters.
“We’re going to be the heart of the defence. We’re going to win a lot of games back there with that secondary. I can’t wait.”
We know one thing. The big camp battles with the defensive backs and receivers should be appointment viewing, day in and day out.
From ATL To Big College Moments
This ATL duo played youth football together in Atlanta from the age of six and eventually became opponents once they got to high school. They were then originally CFL teammates in 2016 and 2017 with Edmonton. You can tune into the podcast itself for some of those great stories, including how neither of them knew the other was going to be in the Alberta Capital when they arrived.
The ATL itself has become somewhat of a football hotbed in recent years. Ladler’s Alma Mater, Stephenson High School has sent nine players to the NFL since it opened in 1996. Along with Ladler, those include fellow defensive back Marcus Ball, linebacker Bruce Irvin and current Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Preston Smith.
Playing in the south also makes it easier to draw the attention of some big-name programs. Ladler parlayed his success into an NCAA career at Vanderbilt while Peters ended up getting recruited by Clemson. Both have fond memories of big moments. Along with helping the program get to three straight bowl games for the first time in over a century.
Ladler won’t ever forget a solid performance in a losing effort against Texas A&M and a pretty well-known quarterback.
“It was a great game for me because I had like ten tackles, three turnovers and an interception against Johnny Manziel,” Ladler remembered.
“Had we won that game I think I’m known across the nation as defensive player of the week but unfortunately, we lost. That’s the individual performance I’ll remember most.”
Ladler’s senior year saw him lead the NCAA with five forced fumbles and earn first-team All- SEC defensive back and safety honours.
For Peters, it was getting the chance to shut down Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and LSU in the 2012 Chick- Fill A- Bowl. He exchanged gloves with Beckham Jr. after the contest.
“It was a cool experience. At the time, he wasn’t OBJ like everyone knows him but he was still a great player,” recalls Peters.
“They had Jarvis Landry and a bunch of guys. It just shows the respect that a guy has for you when you go out there and battle hard. For him to want to get your gloves and I wanted to get his gloves too, just the same. We’d been going at it the whole game, back and forth. He’d have a catch; I’d have a couple of break-ups. It was a great game. We ended up winning. For him to just show his respect after the game was just a cool experience. Today, for him to be who he is, I just take it as a cool experience.”
And that big-game experience for the ATL duo will surely come in handy as we hopefully get set for a 14-game sprint back to the playoffs.