FOOTBALL: Best friends from Surrey to battle each other for Grey Cup

CLOVERDALE – The B.C. Lions might not be playing in the Grey Cup game Sunday (Nov. 30) at BC Place Stadium, but there will be a decision for local fans on which Surrey player to cheer for.

Adam Berger of the Calgary Stampeders and Kyle Miller of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will be going head-to-head in the 102nd edition of the Canadian Football League final.

The pair, who are best friends, played football together in the community and at the high school level for Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

“It’s kind of like the perfect storm,” said Berger, a Calgary defensive back. “This opportunity probably won’t ever happen again in our playing careers. The fact that we’re both in the Grey Cup and it’s in our hometown and everything. It’s going to be really cool.”

After high school, they also spent several years playing together on defence for Simon Fraser University.

Miller started his post-secondary career at Western Washington University after attending an open tryout. But in January of his first year, the program folded and he was left without a team.

Lord Tweedsmuir head coach Kurt Thornton said one of the key reasons Miller chose to go to SFU was because Berger was there. He noted the pair lived together in their final two years of high school after Miller’s parents moved, making his commute to Cloverdale near impossible.

“I’m extremely proud of the two of them,” Thornton added. “Both had some adversity that they had to come through, particularly in university, to get where they’re at.”

The coach said Berger was one of the most recruited football players in Canada in his senior year, with nearly every university in the country looking at the Panthers quarterback.

He made the decision to go to SFU and stay close to home, but suffered a knee injury that forced him to sit out his first year. The following season, The Clan tried him at different positions because of his athleticism, and found a fit for him in the secondary.

Berger was picked by Calgary in the fourth round (30th overall) of the 2012 CFL draft.

In his first year with the Stampeders, he was forced to play special teams, blocking on punt and kick returns while being a gunner on punting situations. But this year, he has been able to work his way into some of the defensive packages as a defensive back, recording seven defensive tackles and nine special-teams tackles.

Once Miller moved to SFU, he became roommates with Berger again. In 2012, Miller was second on the team in tackling with 73, falling one short of linebacker Casey Chin for the team lead.

Unlike his best friend, Miller wasn’t drafted to the CFL after university, but he was determined to make it there.

Once training camps were over, the Lions signed Miller in June 2013 as a free agent to their practice roster, but he was cut at the end of August.

After being cut, Miller knew he had to bring something to a team in order to remain on the roster. So, during the offseason, he taught himself how to long snap and, in January of this year, the Tiger-Cats signed Miller.

“He put himself in a position to contribute to that team on special teams and hold a roster spot by having a unique skill,” Thornton said.

Miller is second on the depth chart as a long snapper, but has played on special teams for Hamilton this year, recording two tackles this season.

Regardless of the score, one Lord Tweedsmuir graduate will have his name on the Grey Cup, a first for the school’s 10-year football program.

Diana Berger, Adam’s mother, is attending Sunday’s game, and said she’s feeling very nervous.

“I will have both of their jerseys on,” she said. “Kyle said to me, ‘No matter what… the cup is coming back to Cloverdale.’”

kyle.benning@gmail.com

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