Ticat defenders Ja’Gared Davis, Tunde Adeleke never miss the Grey Cup


Published December 9, 2021 at 12:37 pm

HAMILTON — A unanimous selection to the CFL East Division all-star team, Tunde Adeleke is a force in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ defensive secondary.

But asked about appearing in a fourth straight Grey Cup game in as many CFL seasons, the 26-year-old offers up a different secret to his success.

“I just follow JG around and he’ll take me to a championship somehow,” Adeleke said with a smile.

Smart thinking.

In his fifth year in the league, Hamilton defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis is headed to his fifth Grey Cup — on Sunday when the Ticats meet Winnipeg at Tim Hortons Field in a rematch of the 2019 championship game.

Asked about his secret, Davis offered one word. Perseverance.

“Honestly it’s a blessing,” he added in his southern drawl. “Going to the Grey Cup once is a feat in itself. And just being blessed to make it five, let alone five years straight, I’ve just been part of some great organizations, some great teams. And just find a way to get it done.” 

After signing with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Davis spent time on the practice rosters of the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins.

He came to Calgary at the start of training camp in 2016, going on to play in the 2016, ’17 and ’18 Grey Cups with the Stampeders before joining Hamilton in 2019 as a free agent and continuing his run of championship games that year.

Adeleke was selected out of Carleton University by Calgary in the third round (25th overall) of the 2017 CFL draft. He appeared in the 2017 and ’18 Grey Cups with the Stamps before playing in the 2019 championship game as a Ticat after landing in Hamilton as a free agent earlier that year.

Despite missing two games with a hamstring injury this season. Adeleke recorded 44 total tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and six pass knockdowns.

Davis’s six sacks this season upped his career total to 42. The East all-star also recorded 39 tackles, including four for a loss, and two pass knockdowns.

It has not all been wine and roses for Adeleke and Davis, however. Just making it to the Grey Cup game doesn’t mean winning it.

Davis is 1-3 in the championship game, losing with Calgary in 2016 and ’17 and Hamilton in 2019 and winning with the Stamps in 2018. Adeleke is 1-2.

The two teammates are cut from a different cloth.

Adeleke is five foot 10 and 208 pounds but looks slimmer. The Nigerian-born Ottawa native posted the fastest time in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 CFL draft combine in Regina, clocking 4.581 seconds.

“You don’t need a big stick of dynamite, you just need a stick of dynamite,” said Hamilton defensive co-ordinator Mark Washington, who calls Adeleke “a really really good football player and a better man.”

Davis is listed at six foot one and 238 pounds but looks wider. There is menace to spare when Davis locks onto a ball-carrier. If anything, the Texan looks like he could prompt a record 40-yard dash time from whoever he’s chasing.

Off the field, Davis moves slowly — like a big cat, conserving his energy for when he’s hungry,

Washington calls him an “extremely talented football player.”

“He understands that this is like a plane ride,” he said. “You ramp it up and just keep climbing and climbing and climbing. And here we are.”

Davis is also part of the Ticat glue.

“He’s a guy you want in your locker-room,” fellow defensive lineman Julian Howsare said. “He’s a team guy. He’s hilarious, he’s funny. He’s just a great guy to have around.”

Davis speaks highly of his time in Calgary, saying it was the closest thing he had to family since leaving Texas. Those bonds are also evident in Hamilton.

“When I came here, took my visit, met the coaches and staff, player personnel (staff), it made me feel like I was home again . That’s one of the biggest things we pride ourselves on, being a very close-knit group,” he said.

“Special teams guys hang out with the D-line. D-Line hangs out with the receivers, the quarterbacks. We all crack jokes on each other. There’s nobody left out.”

The 31-year-old Davis counts injured rookie fullback Jake Burt as one of his closest friends, saying the two talk every day.

“It never fails to amaze me that we all bond together. We just have each other’s backs,” he said. “So to get to this point just goes to show how much we’ve held together, even (with) the up-and-down season we’ve had, then the injuries and the COVID protocols. You name it. We still hung together. And here we are.”


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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