RWU HQ – I had the chance to catch up with USA Eagles 7s prop and 15s flanker Danny Barrett. With that, it’s our pleasure to bring you this latest RWU Rugby Q&A. Enjoy!
Q: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Danny.
A: It’s my pleasure.
Q: When did you first start to play rugby?
A: I first started on a tour to Ireland in 2004. I wasn’t on the team, as it was the high school team my brothers were playing for, but someone got hurt and I stepped up as an extra body. Played about 10 minutes, scored a try, made a tackle and had a penalty, the Gordie Howe hat trick of rugby.
Q: Claissic answer. We linked the Gordie Howe part for those not in the know… So, were your brothers the biggest influence on you from a rugby point of view growing up?
A: Yes. My biggest influence started with my two older brothers. They started playing in high school and I went to most of their games while in middle school.
Q: Did you enroll at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep right after high school, or was that your high school?
A: SHCP was my high school.
Q: How come you decided to go to Cal? What was the biggest influence on the decision?
A: I went to Cal because not only we’re they one of the top rugby teams in the country, it is also a very prestigious academic university. My biggest influence to go to Cal was the rugby but also the degree. It didn’t hurt that my brothers were also enrolled and on the team.
Q: What were some of the things you did in your spare time at Cal?
A: We did a whole bunch of stuff outside of rugby: I joined a fraternity, a lot of video games and TV watching took place, but there was always time for school work and a protest or 10.
Q: What were some of your favorite memories from college (rugby and non-rugby related?)
A: Some of my best memories from school had to be winning the two 15s titles with my brother Neill, winning the CRC 7s title in my last year, but my best memory happened before I attended class. The day I got the phone call from Coach Clark that I got accepted to Cal was pretty special for my parents, three boys all playing rugby at one of the top public universities in the world is pretty cool. One of the better non-rugby related memories was when they took the people out of the trees in front of California Memorial Stadium.
Q: During your time at Cal, you were part of two national championships. Was one sweeter than the other? What do you remember about each?
A: Both of those games have a special place in my heart and always will. I was lucky enough to start in the 2010 game as a sophomore with a lot of pressure on me for our two tries we scored. One of which was to my brother Neill. The 2011 game was also special in that I was able to help a great graduating class cap-off their careers with a victory in the most hostile of environment, in the backyard if BYU.
Q: Having experienced an NCAA varsity like atmosphere at Cal, do you agree with those that believe rugby becoming an NCAA sport will change the game for the better in the US?
A: I do agree with those who think that integrating rugby into the NCAA would be better for the game in our great country. In my opinion, it could take off just like football did when it became an NCAA sport.
Q: What are some of the things that you’ve learned from your time at Cal that you use in your game now?
A: I think the biggest thing that was drilled into almost every Cal rugby man was work ethic. As Coach Billups always said, “You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable”. Being able to work through the pain of being tired is important to being a back row player.
Q: Not only did you win some collegiate championships while at Cal, but you also had the opportunity to play on the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans team during the MCAA’s New Zealand Tour in June 2013. What was that experience like?
A: The All-American tour is a great platform to play on. It shows you what level you need to be able to play on as well as give you the feeling of an international tour. It was also fun to meet some of the guys I went to battle against so many times.
Q: You were a member of the San Francisco Golden Gate sevens team at the inaugural World Club 7s in 2013. What was that experience like?
A: The World Club 7s is an awesome tournament! Just having the chance to play at Twickenham was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better club to play with either. Being able to see how professional teams from around the world prepare for something like that was interesting and helpful for myself and my future endeavors from that point on.
Q: Now you’ve played both 7s and 15s internationally, what version of the game do you like better?
A: I like whichever one I am playing at the time. As long as I can play the game of rugby, whether it be 7s or 15s, I’m happy.
Q: Considering you play both 7s and 15s for the Eagles, that puts you in some exclusive company. What does it mean to you that you can represent our country in both sports?
A: Being able to represent your country in any form of any game or sport is a huge honor. It’s something every young athlete aspires to do in their playing career. For myself, being able to wear that USA Rugby patch on my chest and have that American flag on my sleeve is not just an honor for myself but also for my family. There is a big honor in being selected to our National Team, but as Coach Billups told me when I was selected to compete for the USA in Las Vegas, the honor lies not in the selection but what you do with your opportunity. Every day there are new kids and men fighting for a chance to put that jersey on and every time I am presented a jersey, I take it very seriously. It is my armor for when I go to battle against our opponent.
Q: Which game moves faster international 7s or 15s coming from college?
A: I’m going to go with 15s. I only had a short time to prepare for the ARC, so I wasn’t really able to get the full grasp of speed before our first match where in 7s, I had about a month of playing against elite level 7s athletes to become accustomed to the speed of the game.
Q: You scored a try in the Eagles Select XV’s win against Canada at the 2013 IRB Americas Rugby Championship. Can you describe that experience for me?
A: It was surreal. Although I like to consider that as something I do a lot, it was cool to be able to score against a team like Canada. Realistically, I had the easy job. Derek Asbun did a fantastic job stealing away possession dishing to Mile Pulu to Cam Dolan. All I had to do was run to the line and dot it down.
Q: The Eagles seem to be without a natural 7, a fetcher (in 15s.) Can you become that guy or do you see yourself as more likely to develop on the blindside?
A: I don’t like speculating on where I could play or where I want to play, I just want a jersey on my back. If someone sees me as a 7, I will hone my skills to become the best 7 I could be. If not, I’ll try to become the best 6 I could be. Where ever coach wants me, I will gladly play.
Q: We understand that you pretty much hate every opponent going into a match… Explain how that helps you and does if it changes after the game.
A: I wouldn’t say I hate every opponent, but I definitely don’t care for them. I’m not out there to make friends, I’m on the field to help MY team win the game and that’s what I’m going to try and do. To me it’s like a boxer going into a bout, there has to be some type of switch you can pull while preparing for a fight, there has to be some dislike to go out and want to smash your opponent. It definitely changes off the field… sometimes.
Q: I’ll remember to keep my distance! Taking a step away from rugby for a minute… If you could play on one reality TV show, what would it be?
A: As you’ll find out, it would have to be a professional wrestling show.
Q: If you were trapped on an island and could bring any three items, what would they be and why?
A: It would have to be four things, I couldn’t make do with just 3. So my four things would be my tag-team partner, Doris the Dentist (Hayden Smith) who along with Doctor Dano (me) create the Medical Team, my second would be the tag-team Horse’s Gold, made up of the Horse Man (Chris Wyles) and the Nuggett (Seamus Kelly), the third being a guest referee in The Pool Show (Scott LaValla), and lastly would be a wrestling ring.
Q: You’ll need tights as well! If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?
A: The three people I would want at my dinner would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Natureboy Ric Flair, and Andre the Giant.
Q: Almost everyone listens to music while they get ready for their match or game… What’s the last song you listen to before you put your iPod/iPhone away?
A: The last song I listen to is…The Space Jam theme song.
Q: Finally, why do you continue to play rugby?
A: I continue to play rugby for my family and everyone who has pushed me to get where I am and where I could potentially go. As well as all the kids who one day will be the future of rugby in The States. Rugby has been my passion for a very long time now and I’m not anywhere near ready to give it up. It is a part of who I am.
Q: Great answers. Thanks again, Danny.
A: Thank you.