Baylor adds 24-year old Australian rugby player to 2013 recruiting class
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rt Briles doesn’t like to recruit outside the state of Texas, but when he does, he’s had success finding talent in some pretty unconventional places.
Watkins, a junior college transfer who played for Baylor in 2009-10, worked as a fireman in Canada for several years before deciding to pursue football. He developed into an All-Big 12 player and a first round selection of Philadelphia in the 2011 NFL Draft.
At Houston, Briles landed German-born Sebastian Vollmer, who came to the U.S. a 6-foot-8, 250-pound tight end that couldn’t speak English. Vollmer is in his fifth year as offensive tackle with the New England Patriots.
Now Briles is at it again. Baylor has reportedly signed 24-year old Australian rugby player Peni Tagave as part of its 2013 recruiting class.
Tagive spent the past five years playing in Australia’s National Rugby League, but retired in 2012 to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Former Hawaii player Paul Manera, now coach of the Bondi Raiders in Australia’s Gridiron NSW (American football) league advised Tagive to play college football first, hooked him up with Baylor.
Listed at 6-3, 225 pounds and said to run a 4.5 40-yard dash, Tagive is expected to play wide receiver or linebacker at Baylor. Manera thinks believes he has a future in American football.
“When Peni mentioned he was interested in playing in the NFL, I recommended that he play college football first,” Manera told Australia’s Bring It On Sports. “He is a very determined person and I think he has what it takes to make it in the college system and potentially be drafted to the NFL.”
Tagive will pursue a degree in exercise physiology and is expected to enroll at Baylor University in July for the school’s second summer session.
He joins fellow Australian brothers Blake and Sean Muir, who were also close to Manera, on the Bears roster.
Blake Muir (6-5, 295) began has college career at Hawaii. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2011, Muir started all 12 games at left tackle for the Warriors in 2012. He announced in February that he planned to transfer to Baylor and will sit out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
His younger brother Sean (6-2, 280) is an interior lineman that is expected to be eligible as a freshman in 2013.
There is recent precedent for former rugby players successfully translating their skills from the pitch to the gridiron.
Hayden Smith, also an Australian, played professional rugby in the U.S. and England before he signed with the New York Jets in 2012. Smith eventually made the Jets roster as a tight end.
American high school rugby star Nate Ebner went on to play at Ohio State before before joining the Buckeyes’ football team as a walk-on in 2009. Ebner was a valuable special teams player and was drafted by the Patriots in the 6th round of the 2012 draft.
Photo: Andy Zakeli / Sydney Morning Herald
Below is a highlight video of Tagive’s rugby exploits: