No matter who wins Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Vancouver, history will be made at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.
A pair of graduates from the Cloverdale school are playing in the game at BC Place, meaning either Adam Berger of the Calgary Stampeders or Kyle Miller of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will earn Grey Cup rings, which would be a first for the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers football program.
“You could see it coming, and when it happened, I was pretty excited,” said Kurt Thornton, head coach of the Panthers since the program began roughly a decade ago. “Now it’s guaranteed. A Panther is going to have his name on the Grey Cup.”
Berger and Miller were teammates with the Panthers, each playing their final season in the fall of 2007 when the team was ranked number one in B.C. for much of the season before losing in the semifinal round of the playoffs. Along with Matt McGarva, currently with the B.C. Lions, the trio graduated in the spring of 2008 and eventually turned professional in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Berger and Miller likely won’t be facing each other on the field, as each is listed as a back-up at the defensive back position. But they will be on opposite sides of the field, as opposed to sharing the same sideline as they have done at the community, high school and university levels.
They played together for several seasons at Lord Tweedsmuir as well as with Cloverdale Community Football. And they ended up under the same roof during high school and university.
“Kyle’s parents moved when he was in Grade 11, so the Bergers took him in,” said Thornton. “He and Adam are close, like brothers. They were roommates at SFU.”
Berger was a quarterback with the Panthers, and Miller was his top receiver. But both went their separate ways after their Grade 12 season, with Berger joining the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Clan and Miller suiting up for Western Washington University Vikings in Bellingham.
“I think Kyle was under-recruited, he should have been recruited better,” Thornton said.
“Everyone wanted Adam, and SFU got him when they were still in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sports).
“But Kyle wanted the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), and he was a walk-on at Western Washington. But that program folded the year after he got there, so he went to SFU to join Adam.”
Berger again had the easier route to the pros. He was selected by the Stampeders 30th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 CFL Canadian draft and was signed in January of 2013. Berger had six solo tackles and nine special teams tackles, appearing in all 19 Stampeders games this season. His most productive game was a July 18 contest at home against the Tiger-Cats, when he was credited with three tackles, one of which was on special teams.
Miller was not drafted but signed by the B.C. Lions in June of 2013, then was released midseason. The Tiger-Cats signed him this past January, and he has dressed for all 18 regular season games as well as the Eastern Final, a 40-24 victory over the Montreal Alouettes.
“Kyle is very resourceful, he always finds a way to get to where he wants to be,” said Thornton. “Once he was signed by Hamilton, he worked his way onto their roster.”
Both players, along with McGarva – who is a current assistant coach at the school – keep in touch with their high school coach. Thornton follows their careers – and those of other former Panthers – very closely.
“Absolutely, I follow all the guys when they move on to college or university, he said. “I texted each of them (Berger and Miller) after their games last week, and they texted back pretty quickly. I think Kyle was still in the dressing room when he texted.”
There may be a Lord Tweedsmuir graduate with his name on the Grey Cup, but no one who has played football there has ever played in the CFL championship game.
“There’s some alumni who have played community football and may have gone on to win the Grey Cup. This school has been around for a while,” said Thornton.
“But the football program hasn’t. No one from Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers football has played in a Grey Cup (before).”
Berger and Miller couldn’t be reached for comment.
The game gets underway at 3 p.m. on Sunday.