NEW ORLEANS, LA – With Selection Sunday today marking the start of March Madness for Division I College Men’s and Women’s basketball, it got me thinking about some madness in the comparatively calm world of rugby. (QUICK SIDE NOTE: If you are making a NCAA bracket, look for a Syracuse vs Baylor in a good national championship game – just sayin’… ) Anyway, I decided to look at what players were “mad” enough to convert from one professional sport to professional rugby. Believe it or not, there are more than you would think.
Leonard Peters: USA 7’s
Peters was a college football safety at the University of Hawaii. He recorded 290 tackles and 7 interceptions in 50 career games. After his collegiate career, Peters went on to the NFL in 2007 as an undrafted free agent signed by the New York Jets. After floating around practice squads in the NFL, Peters finally left the game in 2008 after he was released by the Chicago Bears. Lucky for Peters, he is from American Samoa, where rugby is “huge” and like “the NFL is in the U.S.” Peters father grew up playing rugby, but never allowed his son to play. Peters got his chance in 2009 when he was chosen for the US 7’s to play in the 2009 World Games in Taiwan. Peters played well enough for the 2009 team to be asked back to play with the United States National Rugby Team for the 2010 Churchill Games.
Richard Tardits: USA Eagles
Tardits was a linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs during his collegiate career. Tardits was the holder of the record for most sacks in a career at Georgia , until it was broken in 2004. Tardits then made it to the NFL in 1989 when he was drafted in the 5th round by the then Phoenix Cardinals. In his NFL career Tardits appeared in 27 games while starting one and had one career fumble recovery. When Tardits football career ended in 1992, he turned to rugby. Tardits was able to help the Mystic River Rugby Club reach the national finals. Tardits who is French also represented the France National Team for Under 21. Tardits most prolific stint was with the USA Eagles were he played in the 1999 Rugby World Cup, 1996 and 1997 Pan-Am Games.
Liam Botham: Wigan Warriors, 2nd Row
Botham who is born in England, comes from a very rich family history in the sport of cricket. Both his father and godfather were very good cricket players; with his father being captain of the Viv Richards, a West Indian cricket team. Botham originally followed down the same path of his father and choose to play cricket for Hampshire Cricket. But Botham soon left the game to play rugby instead. Botham made his rugby debut in 1997 for West Hartlepool. Botham moved from team to team having his longest stretches at Newcastle Falcons and Leeds Bulls. While playing with Newcastle his team won the Tetley Bitter Cup and reached the final of the European Shield. Botham had to leave the sport in 2005 due to a neck injury.
With players from the National Football League like Leonard Peters and and Richard Tardits making such successful conversions from football to rugby it makes you wonder if Terrell Owens and Randy Moss could make the same successful switch if they don’t find a team this off-season. Can you imagine T.O. and Moss on the same team – in any sport for that matter? Food for thought.
P.s… Again I suggest picking the Syracuse Orange and Baylor Bears to be in the NCAA Championship for Division I Men’s Basketball. So, if you are filling out a bracket this year keep that in mind. Cincinnati is a good dark horse to watch for, too.