By Perry Lefko
Identical twin brothers Justin and Jordan Herdman are living the dream playing in the Canadian Football League and carrying on the middle linebacker legacy of their father, James Reed.
Earlier this season, the Herdman brothers played on opposing teams – Jordan with the B.C. Lions and Justin with the Toronto Argonauts – for the first time in their football careers since their youth. Last year, Justin missed both games in which the Lions and Argos played – once with an injury, the other; because he was on the practice roster.
It may have been a CFL record of sorts. While there have been brothers who played in the league at the same time and, in some cases, on the same team – being identical twins playing at the same time might be a first.
“It was definitely an awesome experience, very unique,” Jordan told me after the game about playing against his brother.
The Argos and Lions play Saturday night in B.C., so this could be another occasion for the Herdman brothers to battle it out.
Jordan has started several games at middle linebacker this year because of an injury that sidelined B.C.’s perennial All-Star – Solomon Elimimian with a hand injury.
Justin is currently a backup linebacker and special teams threat for the Argos.
The two talked for a few minutes during warmups before the game in Toronto – Justin said there was no trashtalking, nor would there ever be. Later, the two were on the field at the same time during a special teams play in which the Argos were returning a punt.
“I actually ran into him one time. I didn’t realize it was him,” Jordan, who is two minutes older than Justin, told me after the game. “It was definitely exciting to see your brother out there. Just having one of your family members out there with you is really cool. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to play against him.”
“It was good to see my brother out there across from me, but it was more like he was just a number out there, just another guy,” Justin said.
The two were drafted into the CFL last year – Justin in the seventh round, 54th overall, Jordan 60th overall. Both attended Simon Fraser University. Both are grateful for the opportunity to play professionally.
“Not a lot of people get the opportunity to play football, so we’re just thankful we were drafted,” they said. “It doesn’t matter where we were drafted. Everybody has to prove themselves, work hard, make plays for the team they are playing for. It’s just a blessing.”
“It’s definitely a unique situation having identical twins playing in the CFL, doing a good job out there,” Jordan said. “I’m happy I can share this moment that I’m having right now, playing football with my brother. It’s great. We’ve been doing it our whole lives. To go on to the next level is just amazing. We get along really well – [we’re] very competitive, [and] we push each other training in the off-season. It’s great.
“One of my goals was to be a starting middle linebacker in this league. I was just being patient, working hard and I knew eventually my time was going to come to get an opportunity to show what I can do. It came a little sooner than I was actually expecting. I just try to do my best every time to help my team win; try to bring that same spark that Solly [Elimimian] brought. That’s how the game goes some time; you’ve got to be ready for the opportunity when it comes. I’m just here doing my best.”
The two had family and friends at the game – mother, Judy, flew in from Winnipeg, along with the boys’ stepfather. Justin’s girlfriend, who lives in Toronto, was also in attendance. They gathered on the field after the game for photos. Jordan said it was “awesome” that their mother was there to witness Herdman family history, for both young men.
“She’s a very proud mom,” he said.
The brothers’ father, who had a lengthy career in the professional ranks north and south of the border, including three full seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1979-81, didn’t make it to the game.
Jordan said his dad’s experience playing in the NFL and CFL allowed him and Justin to learn the game at a young age.
“I really fell in love with the game just having him around,” Jordan said. “He would teach us techniques and footwork. It’s really great to have that kind of role model in your life. I just embrace [having a father who played pro football]. I really enjoy having my Dad around all the time. We go train with him all the time and we love doing it.”
It seems the admiration is mutual. The Herdman patriarch is extremely proud of his boys.
“I showed them the game of football,” Reed told the Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen last year. “They’ve got a great passion for that. It’s unbelievable. They’ve never been in trouble. They never look for trouble — it’s amazing. They’re very special kids. They’re better than me – I always say that – as [people] and as football player[s].”