Highly rated American Football player Psalm Wooching gave up a high paying contract to return to his first love, Rugby.
In March, news broke that the linebacker for the Washington Huskies, Psalm Wooching, would not be pursuing the NFL draft. The defensive captain for the College-playoff Huskies said that he would be returning to his original love, rugby. The code switch was surprising, but is pleasing to the growing fanbase in the huge US rugby market.
Last Word on Rugby (LWOR) reporter Josh Bradham recently spoke with Psalm Wooching about his transition and plans for the future.
LWOR: When you made your decision to not participate in the NFL draft, you said your first love was rugby. What is your rugby background?
Psalm Wooching: “I grew up playing on the big island of Hawaii. I first started playing in New Zealand early on, when my family did some Christian mission trips there. That’s where I first picked up the game.
My dad is from Samoa, and rugby is like a religion there. So with the help of my dad, and growing up with people very knowledgeable about the game it was my first sport.
— Psalm Wooching (@PsalmWooching) December 26, 2017
LWOR: From playing American Football all through college, do you feel that playing football has helped you at all with rugby?
Psalm Wooching (PW): For sure, between athleticism, tackling and the offensive side of the ball. Both games are very different, but at the same time very similar. The objective of both games is to score, defensively the point is to tackle the guy behind the line of scrimmage, or gain line in both sports. Offensively the purpose is to break the gain line or get first downs. That really helped get my rugby level back up and I think playing rugby helped my football a lot, because I played both in college. With tackling and being a linebacker, being able to take the head out of the game and shoulder tackling, wrapping, and fishing the leg really translated great to football.
LWOR: This summer you played 10s with the Harlequins club, how was that experience?
PW: It was great, like no other. Playing in the in the top level with senior Harlequins players was awesome [World Club 10s tournament]. Being able to showcase talent against other top teams like the ACT Brumbies, the Bulls, Cheetahs and the Western Force. It was a confidence booster to see how I matched up against that high end of a player’s while coming from a football background for the last five years.
I feel like I dominated it and it was awesome to get my confidence back while learning from those guys who are huge stewards of the game. To pick their brains and build relationships that still last was a great thing.
LWOR: In the next stop in your wild ride since your decision, you toured with the US Rugby ‘A team’ down in Uruguay. How was it getting your first start in a USA jersey?
PW: Oh it was amazing. For memories and times like this, it is why I gave up football. Just being able to represent the red, white, and blue and put on [the jersey] for this country was a great experience. I was fortunate enough to start in one and contribute in all three. It was amazing and a humbling experience to be coached by those guys, they are great coaches, and I took a lot back from them, and also the other players as well.
A lot of those players were on the USA stage for a while now, and this is my first go around. It was awesome to be welcomed by those guys with open arms, and giving me tips to enhance my game.
LWOR: When you started, you wore the number 7 jersey, is that a position you want to continue playing?
PW: Yes, I’ll stay at the flanker position now, it compliments the position I played in football really well. The coaches saw that, and though I was hesitant at first, playing in the forwards, but since I made the code switch I never looked back.
It’s a great position, kind of like the outside linebacker position from scums you can’t hit up quickly to the 10 or 9 and the crossing line from the 12. It’s stuff like that, where the outside linebacker has to contain, and rushing the passer; which was my forte in college.
LWOR: currently your are listed as playing with the Seattle Saracens, what are you plans for the future?
PW: There are some things in the works, eventually trying to get overseas, that’s the first plan. Representing the country and moving forward with that is the main priority. That’s always been a dream of mine, and to continue forward with that would be amazing.
LWOR: A couple of weeks ago Gary Gold was announced as the new head coach of the
Eagles, what are your thoughts on that?
PW: A: It’s awesome, I’ve only heard good things about him. I’ve only been in conversation for a few months since March. What I’ve heard though is he’s a very positive guy for that role and just positive things from the players that are over there with him in Worcester. I’m just excited to get to know him and continue the relationship with him.
Finally, LWOR asked Psalm Wooching “What is your favorite thing about rugby?”
I’d say the chemistry, the brotherhood, and the bond.
PW: I don’t know if there is a word to tie all of those three together. When you’re on the field, it’s like no other feeling. You are so connected to your brothers out there on the field. You rely on them to do their job in order for you to do yours. There’s just something special, when someone does something great, the feeling of excitement for them, for our team.
Just the brotherhood that you build through rugby, through travel, and through memories that really drew me to the game. Also that you get to hit real hard and carry the ball, which is my favorite thing to do.”
Last Word on Rugby would like to thank Psalm Wooching and USA Rugby for the opportunity to interview, and feature him in our coverage of US Rugby and the forthcoming Major League Rugby competition.
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