Polar Bear & Cactus: Matt Hawkins & Paul Emerick

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Matt "Polar Bear" Hawkins

Team USA Eagle 7s Captain Matthew “Polar Bear” Hawkins, despite being a husband & daddy and coaching SDSU, takes the Thursday slot on RWU. This week, he chats up fellow Eagle Paul “Cactus” Emerick.

MH: Cactus, hope the knee is feeling good and the doc had good news for you. First off Cactus, I would just like to say that you had a phenomenal Rugby World Cup and it was great to see. On that note what is next? I know you were hoping for Pan Am games, but now that has slipped passed you, what are your thoughts?
PE: Injury was very unfortunate timing, but that’s part of the game. Was really gutted not to be apart of this maiden voyage into a multi-sport event. Maybe I’ll have to stick around for the 2016 Olympics

MH: You have been part of the USA Rugby set up for a while and have seen it grow and morph through the last 10 or so years. What do you think have been the biggest factors helping the growth of rugby?
PE: Tough question… How much time have you got? Ha Ha. Probably one of the biggest factors helping our national team is having some consistency in coaching. In my time I’ve seen 4 coaches in 8 years of playing on the 15’s team. (That’s a coach every 2 years for all you math majors). Each coach has his own ideas on pattern and players. Makes it tough to build consistency when you’re constantly changing players around. I think we’ve had some growth, but not near enough to keep up with other Tier II Nations and Tier I is getting even further out of site. I think the best way to help the sport in our country is for people to take it upon themselves to get educated about the sport (coaching courses) and build programs that are solid with good fundamentals. It would be nice also, if all these coaches were on the same page regarding how they teach and what they are teaching to help build a solid base for the future of USA Rugby’s team. We need to start thinking in 10-year cycles rather than 4-year cycles. Hopefully, the adminstrative part of USA Rugby will start to become more effective and efficient. We as a rugby community aren’t involved in that, so I would urge people to control the controllables and get out there and start spreading as much youth rugby as possible, just like my man Matthew Hawkins.

Polar Bear & Cactus

MH: You’re too kind…  The Rugby World Cup in New Zealand had to be close to one of your favorite rugby events you’ve ever attended. Could you share with us some of those moments?
PE: NZ did a fantastic job hosting the RWC. Every town we went to gave us great support with flags everywhere and plenty of fans in the stands. Created a great environment for us to play in. We had the opportunity when we were in Taranaki to get out and see the country side. Got to shear a sheep, shoot some guns and even go for a helicopter ride. Was a fantastic day off and will remember it for ever. On field moments were spectacular as well. The try against Ireland and probably played my best game against Italy in a hard-fought match. Some great moments to remember, for sure.

MH: This last week you have been back with the 7’s squad after spending an extended period with the 15’s group. Was that a good change of pace and are there many differences between the two groups?
PE: 7’s is a much tighter knit group than the 15’s. Just the nature of the sport I think. Instead of having 30 people you’ve only got 12. Every team I’ve been apart of has been great. Boys love the banter and making fun of each other and everyone digs in hard to work for each other as well. One of the reasons I love team sports so much.

MH: Now to get really serious. Are you single and are your ready for a commitment other than your domestic life partner?
PE: I am single. We’ll see about committing; all the touring and traveling makes it kind of tough to be in a relationship. Hats off to the boys who can do both. Definitely no moss on this rolling stone.

MH: You are someone who has spent a considerable amount of time outside of his home in Iowa. What has been one of your greatest travel experiences?
PE: I will be traveling back to Fiji to spend more time in that country. We played in the Suva 7’s a few years ago and it was fantastic. Can’t wait for an opportunity to head back there.

MH: You rose to fame last year as the poster boy for the USA Sevens. How did you handle it and do you attribute that to your warm welcome among the cheerleaders?
PE: I’m sure you’ll be experiencing the same thing this year… It was a bit strange to see my mug plastered all over town, and gives plenty of ammo for the boys to fire shots at you. Not that they need any more ammo… Overall, was pretty cool though. 🙂

MH: Paul, it has been an absolute pleasure, good luck with the recovery and all the best for the rugby you have ahead.
PE: Pleasure was all mine, big man.

Tune in tomorrow for Phaidra Knight, with her guest, fellow Eagle legend Blair Groesfma.

About Matt Hawkins 26 Articles
Matt Hawkins is the current Player/Coach of the USA Eagles 7s team. He is affectionately known as "The Polar Bear" because of his light blond hair and eyebrows. Plus, he likes grabbing salmon from Alaskan rivers.