CLEVELAND, OH – Less than a year after his introduction to rugby, Monte Gaddis has already made an impact in two codes. Spotted by a rugby league scout after standing outside of Cleveland Browns headquarters asking for an NFL tryout, Gaddis is showing that he means business. Despite having no rugby background at the time and competing against mostly seasoned professionals, Gaddis made the final cut for the Toronto Wolfpack’s Last Tackle. Now he has turned his sights to rugby 7s and another tryout, this time an opportunity with the USA national 7s team, via NBC’s Next Olympic Hopeful program. Nick Attewell caught up with Monte to talk about his meteoric rise in rugby, comparing the different ‘codes’ of football, and his future.
Nick Attewell: Thanks for joining us, Monte. So, you attended Toronto Wolfpack (professional rugby league) tryouts with no rugby background? How did that happen?
Monte Gaddis: First off, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to tell others about my story and motivate other athletes. After being released from the Iowa Barnstormers (professional Indoor Football) I received a call from Adam Fogerty about the new team and upcoming tryouts. He had seen my story about me standing at the Cleveland Browns practice facility trying to get a tryout. I attended actually 3 tryouts with the Toronto Wolfpack just to show the coaches that I had what it takes to earn a trip to the United Kingdom and earn a professional contract. One in Philadelphia, Toronto and Tampa Bay. Each tryout I improved on my conditioning, passing and catching the ball.
NA: In an interview you mentioned that Rugby League felt like “football without pads” and it came naturally to you. Have you found rugby 7s to be similar or more challenging?
MG: Yes, I said that rugby league came to me naturally because of my football background but I can say the same about rugby 7s. I’ll tell you one thing for sure, the conditioning level is in a league of its own, that’s the biggest difference. Of course the rules are different in the sports but its still football at the end of the day, but I can say rugby 7s is more challenging but I love the grind.
NA: Carlin Isles is another American football crossover from northeast Ohio. Have you had a chance to watch his highlights? Do you think crossovers like yourself, Carlin and others can help bring new types of players and fans to rugby?
MG: Carlin Isles and Miles Craigwell were the first two crossover players that I saw have some success with rugby 7s. I actually got a chance to meet Carlin, he was the rugby tryouts mentor for the Next Olympic Hopeful TV show. Crossover players like us will help bring new exposure, audiences and players to rugby 7s because there are similarities to both sports [football and rugby].
NA: You and I both grew up in Cleveland. There are lots of bad sports memories to choose from but what’s your favorite Cleveland sports memory? Who were your favorite Cleveland athletes growing up?
MG: My favorite Cleveland sports memory has to be when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals, that night out, I’ve never seen so many “happy” people out in the city. There were high fives everywhere, we ended a 52 year drought for the city, and had the biggest parade in history. My favorite Cleveland athletes growing up were Jim Brown, Coco Crisp and of course LeBron James.
NA: Can you compare yourself to a football player and a rugby (league or union) player who you think your game is similar to?
MG: I would compare my running style with LaDainian Tomlinson and tackling of London Fletcher. If I could compare myself to a rugby player that my game is simular to, I would say Jermaine McGillvary, winger for the Huddersfield Giants. I really think I have my own style of play, especially with my signature spin move that I’m bringing to the rugby world.
NA: You are set to feature in a reality show on NBC where contestants are vying for a USA 7s national team spot. You had a chance to visit the USOC facilities in July. How did that go?
MG: To be honest, that was one of the best times of my life with some of the best athletes from across the country. It was an honor to be in the same building as Olympians and future Olympians. Make sure everyone tunes in on August 25th on NBC for the Next Olympic Hopeful.
NA: Since switching your focus from football to rugby, how have you changed up your workout routine?
MG: Well footwork is key for me, so more ladder and cone work is always important. I’ve added more conditioning to my workouts, added more wrestling and also more long distance sprints. I have to get comfortable with running with the ball in both hands and also being able to pass to my left and right 15 meters running full speed. Leg endurance is very important with rugby 7s, so adding more squats and stadium steps too.
NA: You have entered the Super 7s draft. What can you share about the new league? Are you hoping for a team based in Ohio?
MG: Yes, I have entered the new Super 7s draft which comes in 2018, and it would be a blessing if there was a team based in Ohio. I know its a league for women and men so this should help the exposure of the game here in America. You can follow their social media at @RugbySuper7s.
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