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Go east young man

Rugby Today reports

By Justin Rutledge | 07.31.14
Many people who start playing rugby have one of two dreams – either they want to represent the United States and play for the Eagles, or they want to play overseas on a club level, or both. While they are not putting on the red, white and blue, yet, two Midwest rugby exports are headed overseas to play rugby abroad.

Dan Coci, who currently plays for the Chicago Lions, and Mike Brown from Bowling Green will be shipping out to play overseas for the London Wasps in West London and the Glasgow Hawks, respectively. They took different paths, but both led them to the higher levels of rugby competition.

“I got involved with rugby after Division I football at Western Michigan University,” Coci said. “My best friend played rugby and just loved it after the first day.”

After coaches Mark Allen and Semisi Fonua took Coci under their wings, his career took off. Recently, Coci helped lead the Lions to a second place finish in the 2013 Larrimer Cup. He also earned MVP at the tournament.

“Earning MVP meant a lot because we were playing teams like Penn State and Michigan, who were loaded with talent,” Coci said. “Also, getting a chance to beat my alma mater, Western Michigan, and mentor Semisi Fonua felt great.”

After leaving Western Michigan and joining up with the Lions, Fonua was able to further help in Coci’s development by providing him with the opportunity to take his play overseas. According to Coci, Fonua used a website called Rugby Central and some international connections to send out some of Coci’s game film and his resume to clubs with vacancies. The Wasps decided to bring in Coci for four months.

Mike Brown arrived at the overseas portion of his rugby career through a slightly different route.

“When I was 12 my family moved to South Africa for my dad’s job,” Brown said. “When living there, I learned how to play rugby. I played in South Africa from 12 to 16.”

Brown moved back to the States at that point and began playing with a high school team in Michigan. He stood out during his high school career and was contacted by BGSU, where he played on the team’s first side and enjoyed a lot of success with the Falcons. Brown went to Nationals three of the four years he played at BGSU and went to the Final Four twice.

“I was invited this past year to the All American camp and was an Honorable Mention All-American,” Brown said.

Brown took matters into his own hands and actively pursued teams overseas while looking for a place to play.

“After the camp I started contacting teams overseas,” Brown said. “The Glasgow Hawks reached out and had interest in me. We agreed that I’ll have a trial period in August, but after that we’ll discuss how much I’ll be paid per match.”

Brown will be playing with the Hawks for one year in the Scottish Premiership, with a second year option.

Both men worked hard to get a shot at playing overseas and neither one sought out their new teams as a means to get paid.

“I hope to gain skills and experience to help me play a higher level of rugby,” Coci said. “I want to get a better understanding of the game. I think playing with foreign clubs will help me learn the strategy of rugby better. I think by me going overseas and playing I can inspire others to do so. I could also be making good connections that can benefit others in the future.”

Brown has lofty aspirations behind his overseas excursion. Naturally, Brown wants to improve and play under a brighter spotlight. In the end, he would like to move up the ranks, play for the Glasgow Warriors and, eventually, be noticed by the National Team coaching staff here in the US.

“It’s going to be a different kind of rugby and a new way to see the game,” Brown said.

Both players have a game plan set so they can make sure they have the biggest impact possible when they touch down on foreign soil and begin playing with their new clubs.

“I plan on helping the team by being an impact player as much as possible,” Coci said. “I think I have good speed, and I'm a strong runner, who plays smart with the ball in my hand. I'm a good defender. Mostly, I'm eager to learn and understand.”

“I think I have a unique view to the game,” Brown said. “As a hooker, I was up there on the team on tries, and I believe that I'm great offensive threat. Also, if you ask the Bowling Green coaching staff, I am great at the lineouts and breakdown. But one thing that doesn't go unnoticed is my competitiveness. I'm extremely competitive and this is what gives me an edge on the field.”

Both men depart for their clubs soon. Both will be in Europe at the same time, testing their rugby skills and knowledge. While one came to rugby through football and the other was, essentially, raised on it, both men know what it takes to get a shot overseas.

“Don’t be afraid to ask your coaches, alumni or friends if they have connections to help you,” Coci said.

“Make a highlight tape and send your resume and tape to as many teams as possible,” Brown added.

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This article was originally posted on 2-Aug-2014, 23:10 by Hugh Barrow.
Last updated by Hugh Barrow on 2-Aug-2014, 23:15.

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