Ottawa Redblacks’ James Peter excited about his youth football camp

‘I feel like it’s embedded in me that I have to do this’

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Coming off a rookie CFL season that was full of ups and downs, James Peter is excited about what’s ahead.

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Training camp for the Ottawa Redblacks begins in May, but the 24-year-old linebacker, selected in the second round of last year’s CFL Draft, has been putting a lot of time into another project – a two-day youth football camp April 20-21 at the University of Ottawa’s Matt Anthony Field. 

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It’s a way of giving back to the community, a way to give a terrific opportunity to young players for Peter, who battled plenty of adversity to get to where he is.

The emphasis both days, which are focused on flag football and open to anyone, will be on providing a safe, friendly environment and for the kids to have fun, with a big exclamation mark after “fun.”

Day 1 (for ages 8-12) is a skills camp (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and will deal with positional instruction. There will also be competitive drills for prizes and it will finish with a series of flag football games. The cost is $59.99. 

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Day 2 (for ages 13-18), is more of a showcase with more of a competitive emphasis. There will be university scouts watching and a film crew coming in. There will be 1-on-1s, competitive games for prizes and a series of flag football games. The cost is $69.99. 

Campers will get a JP7s camp T-shirt or jersey, a JP7s camp string bag and lunch.

So, why the football camp put on by a young CFLer just a year removed from being a star with his hometown Ottawa Gee-Gees?

“I’m from here, I’m from Ottawa,” said Peter. “I feel like it’s embedded in me that I have to do this. I went through a crazy journey. I feel like there are a lot of kids like myself who are looking for an opportunity. It’s important for me to give back, but I also want kids to learn a bit more about football and, if they’re looking for it, it’s an opportunity to showcase themselves, an opportunity that took me forever to get.

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“I’m a bit nervous. This is my first time doing something like this. I’m not really big on putting myself out there. In my journey, I was making sure I did everything correctly for myself so I could get to this point. This is not for me anymore, it’s for my community. I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone and doing something that’s bigger than me. I get words of affirmation from people telling me, ‘You’re doing something really good, keep it up.’ That’s really pushed me to keep going with this.”

Several CFL players, many of them currently with the Redblacks – including DeVonte Dedmon, Sherrod Baltimore, Dominique Rhymes, Nick Arbuckle, Dan Basambombo, Justin Howell and  Daniel Oladejo – will be among the camp instructors.

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Each day of the camp can take 84-90 kids. To sign up or for more information, go to

Peter and his group are working on a sponsorship plan so kids without the financial means will still be able to participate.

“This is something I want to do every year,” said Peter. “While the overall premise of JP7s camps is to introduce different developmental camps to the city, I want this to be a big community gathering we do right before the season. People can come meet us, see who we are.

“We want to make this inclusive. That’s why it’s flag football. Any kid can run up to another kid and try to grab a flag. But we also teach them tools so they can take it to another level, we help them get ready to play tackle football.”

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Peter, a first-team all-Canadian linebacker in his final season with the Gee-Gees (58 tackles, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles), lived in Ottawa’s west end, in the low-income Ramsey Cr. area, until he was six or seven. Peter’s family then moved to Barrhaven and he played football for the Nepean (Eagles), Myers Riders, Ottawa Sooners and at Mother Teresa High School before landing at uOttawa, where he became a team leader on and off the field.

A broken finger last season set him back, delaying his Redblacks debut. He played nine games and had five special teams tackles. He’s had a full year to reset and prepare for what’s ahead.

“It’s a way different vibe for me this year,” he said. “Last year, coming out of the CFL Combine, then getting drafted, the transition was so fast. There wasn’t a lot of time to let it sink in, like, ‘James, you made it to the pros.’  There’s a different type of mindset you need to have when you’re playing. I wasn’t there yet.

“The injury took me downhill. I had to try and pick it up mid-season when everybody else was already going full speed. I didn’t perform the way I wanted to perform, I didn’t play to my true potential. Mentally and physically, I’m more prepared. (The youth football camp) is giving me a big kickstart (ahead of the CFL season). I’ll be ready.”

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