Miles, thanks for joining us. Rugby is not a massive sport in the USA, where did you first discover the sport and what made you choose it over other sports?
My Dad’s friend Nevin Kleege ran the Old Aztec’s Rugby Club. Mr. Kleege always saw me rough housing with other boys. My favorite game was called “Smash the Carrier”, a free for all where everyone is trying to smash the guy with the ball. He saw my friends and I playing this game and got us into his club’s rugby jersey that season.
What is your earliest rugby memory?
My earliest rugby memory was beating our cross town rivals in the U8’s, we were always massive underdogs and we beat them in the last seconds. When we won my best friend stole their blow up mascot and paraded it around the field. It was poor sportsmanship and not my proudest moment, but I will remember that day forever.
You spent time in New Zealand, how did you find the culture there in terms of the rugby?
I cherished my time at the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand. I found the culture in New Zealand was all about respect. Weather that was getting food, shaking hands, or saying hello to the janitor. Working with Rodney So’oialo was an amazing experience, I now imitate a lot of my game after him. He taught me a ton in just the few days I got to work with him. When I left New Zealand I had a totally different outlook on rugby.
Do you see rugby growing in the USA? Where do you see the national team in 10 years time?
I see rugby growing in the USA drastically due to the introduction of the MLR. With the presence of a professional league, players will be able to focus on their game and dedicate more time to becoming the best rugby players they can be. The USA is already starting to produce world class players who are in the Premiership and the Top 14, and in the next 10 years I think this could become a norm here. The United States already produces the best American football teams, baseball teams, and basketball teams. I can see the USA Eagles being one of the best rugby teams in the world in the next ten years. We have already seen it through the USA 7’s program when they went from the bottom of the rankings to being one of the best in the world in about six years.
What are your long term goals as a young rugby player?
My ultimate goal is to become a great Eagle. Long term, I want to be chosen for the 2023 World Cup squad and before then I want to sign a professional contract. This year, I am working to win a College National Championship and be selected for the Collegiate All-Americans.
Which pro rugby player do you model your game on?
The two players that I model my game after the most are Duane Vermeulen and Tom Curry.
Curry has an amazing work rate that has pushed him to be a regular face in Eddie Jones Squad. The way he has worked up from u20 level to senior team level in such a short time is very inspiring to me. He is a part of the infamous English backrow that seems to get over every ball, make every tackle, and always be in the right place at the right time. Vermeulen’s physical dominance on attack and defense mixed with his soft skill set makes him one of the best 8’s in the world right now. He was a huge part of why South Africa won the World Cup.
Who has been the biggest influence on your rugby career so far?
The person who has had the biggest influence on my rugby career is Charlie Purdon, currently the University of San Diego Head Coach, Director of Perry Baker Rugby Camps and USA u18 7’s Assistant coach. He changed me from being a big, physical school boy to an extremely skilled versatile backrow. He taught me how to beat people through my decision making and quickness as well as made me extremely good at offloading once I break the line. Another massive influence on my career has been the coaches at Eagle Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA) run by Salty Thompson. EIRA gave me platforms to perform and succeed, and set me up with opportunities after I aged out of the academy. EIRA gave me opportunities to compete against the best and be coached by the best. We went to national tournaments and we were able to compete against the best in the country. Winning my first Regional Cup Tournament was a high like no other. I became addicted and fell in love with every aspect of the sport from preparation to performance. Without Charlie Purdon and EIRA I would not be where I am today.
What advice do you have for young athletes in the USA wishing to pursue a career in rugby?
For young athletes pursuing a career in rugby I would tell them that to get better at rugby you need to play rugby, so play as much rugby as you possibly can. Also be a student of the game, watch as much rugby as you possibly can. Always be the smartest player on the pitch. Be able not only to play the game but to speak the game and have complex conversations about the game. Intelligence is the most important part of being a great rugby player. Lastly, my Coach Charlie Purdon always says “Skills are built, not born” so to make the amazing passes, offloads, and kicks you need to work on them all the time. Hard work plus consistency equals success.
Any plans to play in one of the major rugby playing nations?
Absolutely! I want to play at the highest level vs the hardest competition, that’s how you become the best and I want to be the best.
Finally and we have to ask, which is the tougher sport? Rugby or American Football?
Rugby is the harder sport, you need to be more fit, make more decisions on the fly, and be proficient in various skills.
My last ever meal would be: A California Burrito
If I could meet one person it would be: Conor Mcgregor
My favorite music is: Country
If I wasn’t pursuing a career in rugby I would be: Try to go to BUD/S and become a Navy SEAL
A position I would never want to play: Wing