The Runner Sports

Blaine Scully: USA Eagle #423, Professional, and American Rugby Hero

Blaine Scully grew up in 49ers country well known for a famous catch and like Montana to Clark has become legendary, so too will Magie to Scully go down in USA Rugby lore. Before he helped lead the Eagles to a historic Americas Rugby Championship title, he played several sports in high school only to have a friend in college introduce him to the sport he’s now known.

I had the pleasure of interviewing USA Eagle and Cardiff Blues player, Blaine Scully, recently, and had the opportunity to ask him about his discovery of rugby, life as a professional, and the future of rugby in the US.

Jason Graves: Growing up in 49ers country how did you end up playing rugby? – Who have been your biggest rugby influences?

Blaine Scully: Originally, I was introduced to rugby by a high school friend during my freshman year at university (UCLA). I finished my final three years and degree at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal). At Cal, I played for two individuals who have greatly influenced my rugby career and life –coach Tom Billups and coach Jack Clark. Grateful to the personal contribution of these two men and their continued support and mentorship.


Jason: You played several sports, what did you gain from them that made you the rugby player you are?

Blaine: One of the things I love most about rugby is that the game challenges you (athletically) in so many ways. Every athlete on the field needs to be able to run, jump, pass, catch, tackle, etc… Not to mention, all while being competent in the basic skills the game requires. Like most American kids, I grew up playing a combination of sports, which I believe has been crucial to my athletic development. So many of the skills and movements an athlete performs in any given sport – be it basketball, football, soccer – translates in some way to the rugby field.

Jason: Did your high school have a rugby program?

Blaine: I was fortunate to attend Jesuit High School in Sacramento, CA., which has a pretty prestigious rugby program. I believe they were National Champions the year I graduated in 2006. Unfortunately, I didn’t play!


Jason: Tell me about your family. Are they supportive of you playing rugby? When you were a kid, did they help you build a foundation to become a better athlete growing up?

Blaine: My family has been incredibly supportive of my athletic career. I would not have been able to do any of things I have been fortunate enough to do without their unending support – from youth development all the way through to my professional career. The amount of miles traveled for practices, matches, and tournaments would probably be astounding… I definitely think my mom held her breath when I started playing, but like most of us, she has fallen in love with the great game! The support of my wife, Shannon, gives me the confidence to continue playing and a partner to share the journey with.


Jason: Is there a youth program you’re involved with?

Blaine: Being from Northern California, I am always excited to hear about the regional growth there – especially from a youth perspective. What a time it is to be a young rugby player! When I am in the area, I will usually visit Cal Rugby (my Alma Mater). This year I was able to drop by a Jesuit practice as well. I am very much looking forward to Northern California’s continued rugby growth and becoming more involved with youth rugby in the future.


Jason: How did your initial signing with Leicester come about?

Blaine: I had an opportunity to go on trial with Leicester back in 2013. It was initially a two-week trial. After the Premiership 7s, two weeks turned into four weeks. I was lucky enough to be offered a contract just before our last preseason game against Montpellier. It was a proud moment, the culmination of years of hard work and the start of a fantastic time at a very special place. I will always be grateful to Leicester for the opportunity and the incredible experience.


Jason: Who is the best player you’ve ever played with?

Blaine: I have been very fortunate to play with some legends of the game. Brad Thorn would have to be up there as one of the all-time greats. We played together at Leicester in his last professional season (still not convinced he is actually retired). On the field, he was tough, uncompromising and hard-working. Off the field, he is just a great person to be around. Grateful to be able to call him a close friend.


Jason: What are the challenges of balancing life as a professional rugby player?

Blaine: While it is unquestionably an amazing experience, being a professional rugby player does provide some unique challenges. The rugby landscape has a full competition schedule that can make it difficult for an athlete to navigate and balance. An athlete’s lifestyle becomes extremely important in being able to continue performing at a high level: diet, sleep, recovery, and physical preparation all become very important. But also very important and often overlooked, is the support and relationships that family and friends provide, which is invaluable in maintaining a positive mindset.


Jason: What is your advice for aspiring professional rugby players?

Blaine: Be curious and embrace being challenged. The ability to take coaching and lessons with a growth mindset gives you the ability to continuously develop. Self-honesty is important and so is a positive attitude. Enjoy the journey and the hard work.


Jason: The one question I’ve been waiting to ask you; tell me about ‘The Catch’ versus Uruguay.

Blaine: It was a perfect kick from Will Magie. We knew there was a potential for a penalty advantage as we were going to drive from the attacking lineout. In that situation, if you get a penalty advantage that close to the line, it’s worth taking a shot for a try. It was a spot on kick, all I had to do was catch it.


Jason: Where do you see American rugby in 10 years?

Blaine: As we all are, I am very passionate about this game and seeing it grow in the United States. We are in the midst of a defining period where we have exciting growth potential and have experienced some momentum. Now it will be about channeling that growth in an aligned direction. There are a lot of good people working very hard to make this happen. I am excited to be a part of this movement to grow rugby in the United States.


-By Jason Graves