RWU HQ – Keeping with last week’s theme of taking a look at players who have dabbled in both football and rugby recently, I’ve found a couple more candidates; John Cullen and Paul Lasike.
Cullen currently has one cap as a Number 8 for the Eagles 15s squad in his short rugby career. Interestingly enough, Cullen has a very similar back-story to last week’s feature athlete Thretton Palamo… He began playing the sport in 2012 after his football career fizzled out in the NFL.
Cullen, a former University of Utah offensive linemen, went in undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft and signed with the New York Jets. After four weeks the 2011 Second-Team All-PAC 12 left tackle was cut by the Jets, and signed with the San Diego Chargers. However, like with the Jets, Cullen’s time with the Chargers was short lived as he did not make the 53-man roster. For the former No. 1-rated junior college lineman in the country, it was time to change his career path.
“I gave the NFL a solid shot,” Cullen told Deseret News. “(But) after I was cut by the Chargers, I felt like it wasn’t for me.”
It was time to go back to rugby. Cullen went back to Utah to finish his sociology degree and join the Utes’ rugby club.
“Here comes John Cullen, the former All-American from the football team and spent time with NFL teams, but from Day 1 he became an integral part of the team and a great teammate and leader,” former Utes’ Rugby coach Blake Burdette said. “He showed up to work every day.”
After an impressive season in 2013, Cullen earned a spot on the 2013 USA Rugby Collegiate All-American squad and has since had one cap for the Eagles in international play.
Lasike on the other hand, took almost the polar opposite route in his collegiate athletics career at Brigham Young University. Unlike Cullen, the All-American rugby player is a member of both the BYU football and rugby teams.
After passing up the opportunity to play for his homeland New Zealand All Blacks, Lasike enrolled at BYU. Finding immediate success for the Cougars, Lasike has been named an All-American three times in his career and has been part of numerous national championship runs.
In 2012, Lasike decided to play football, along with rugby, at BYU. In his first year with the team, Lasike played in 12 games registering 33 carries, good for 129 yards and two touchdowns. The dual-sport athlete followed up a strong 2012 campaign with and even better junior season, rushing for 356 yards while appearing in all 13 games, including eight starts.
If Lasike can keep this level of play up in both rugby and football, he’s going to have another tough decision to make come the next spring. Will he choose rugby or football?
Finally, after getting wind of Fitou Fisiiahi‘s decision to choose rugby at Kutztown State in Pennsylvania over football at Oregon State, RWU decided we should all meet the young man. Fisiiahi is a 6-foot-2, 240-pound “athlete” and was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. Along with Oregon State, he had offers from Hawaii, Washington State and Nevada to play football.
Fisiiahi was classified as an athlete by Oregon State, since he played running back and linebacker for his high school, Kaiser HS of Honolulu. OSU had yet to decided which side of the ball he would be playing. At Kaiser, Fisiiahi rushed for 772 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. He led Kaiser to the state Division II title last December. He was named to the American Family Insurance USA Today All-Hawai’i Team. Head football coach at Kaiser, Rich Miano, on Fisiiahi, courtesy of Rivals – “He is the toughest kid he has ever coached and that he is the best prospect in Hawai’i this year.”
In 2012, he captained the USA Rugby HS All-Americans in a tour of England. He played at inside center and kicked for goal. In some circles, he is viewed as a guaranteed future starter for USA Rugby, with some circles say he should be capped at the 2015 RWC as Palamo was in 2007. If he looks as impressive on the rugby field as he does in his senior year football highlight video, then it bodes well for USA Rugby.
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