Alex Cleary: LINEBACKER TO BACK-ROW
Some would say Rugby is truly taking off in the United States with several talented athletes swapping helmets and pads for boots and scrum-caps. But if you check the history books; you'll realise this is no recent trend. Prior to Rugby 7s making its Olympic debut at Rio 2016, the USA were reigning Olympic Rugby Champions and the Eagles are investing heavily to climb up the World Rankings.
More recently the USA Mens 7's team won the World series in Las Vegas which will only cement their position as one of the World's best for tournaments to come.
I recently interviewed Alex Cleary, 18, an open-side flanker / prop from Bellingham, Washington who swapped American-Football to persue a sporting career with the USA Eagles, and here's what he had to say to GRM:
1. Describe yourself using movie titles
"The hurt locker"
2. Name an athlete who motivates / inspires you the most
"Prop Titi lamositele of Saracens. Titi is a local hero from my club back home. Not everyday you see American rugby players signing professional contracts overseas and at such a young age. He’s just an animal. He has such amazing skills and such a nasty step and he’s a prop! He’s definitely my biggest motivation. He’s the hometown hero at Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club"
3. How did you get involved in rugby?
"I play for Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club located in Bellingham Washington, I played competitive baseball up until I was 12 ,but I also grew up playing football and wrestling and liked contact sports. My Dad played college football but also played rugby for fun. I asked him if I could quit to play rugby and if there was a club nearby. Lucky enough there was a great club in my hometown and I was hooked from the very moment I stepped on the pitch! I was! I was 12 years old at the time!
4. How has your involvement in other sports helped you develop as a rugby player?
"I played Linebacker and guard in American Football since I was 10 and I also wrestled since I was 8. Wrestling is my second favourite sport behind rugby. I 100% attribute that to my skill at the breakdown in rugby! It’s given me an edge in physicality over other players".
5. Talk us through your journey into the USA 7s squad.
"When I entered High School I tried out for the all-state u16 team at 15. I didn’t make it but I made a developmental squad for the in the summer where we toured to British Columbia and played British Columbia selects and Ontario selects. I played really well and I made the all-state team (Washington Loggers) the next year.
We went to a regional tournament in Oregon and played against other select sides from other states like California, Oregon, Montana, etc. High School All-American (HSAA) Scouts noticed me following my performance on the pitch me and invited me to HSAA winter camp in December.
At camp there were around 100 under-17 players trying out for a select side to go to Ireland to play against Ulster and Leinster academies and I was fortunate enough to make the team, that’s when my rugby career took off!
I played really well in Ireland and that gave me a lot of exposure back in the States. The next HSAA winter camp we played Canada and won! The Head Coach was also my assistant coach on The youth Olympic 7’s squad this weekend.
I haven't payed a ton of Rugby 7s, however I was fortunate enough to get an invite to try out for the team in Vegas. After 3 days of camp I made the final 12 out of 19. We recently played a very good Canadian side who narrowly beat us 10-14 in the finals. This was our first time together as a squad.
We didn’t qualify for the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina but as a squad we will still play at tournaments like the Pan-Am Games and such. Our coaches told us it would not be the end for the Eagles Under-18s 7’s side. It was an honour playing with these boys this week and everyone has a very bright future. I feel really comfortable in the switch from 15’s from 7’s. I plan on playing both in coming years".
6. Describe your long term goal in just 3 words.
"MENS NATIONAL TEAM"
Thanks for taking the time out to speak to GRM, all the best with your career with the Eagles!
Witten by Shawn Boatin.
Love reading great GRM stories like these? Support our platform by making a small donation today!