The Runner Sports

Meet Najee Bissoon: Oklahoma Football Player Dreams of 7s Glory

Rugby is growing in the United States, that’s a fact, but would you ever imagine an Oklahoma Sooner football player’s dream includes playing for the USA Eagles 7s squad and possibly Major League Rugby (MLR)? Sure, if the National Football League comes calling I’m willing to bet Najee Bissoon picks up the phone but as you’ll see, he’s leaving the door open.

Najee runs his 40 time in 4.39 seconds; in-comparison, former football players and track runners Carlin Isles and Perry Baker run it in 4.22 and 4.34 clicks of the ticker respectively. If the 2014 Oklahoma Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year and Humble, Texas native wants to give 7s a try I say someone call Mike Friday ASAP!

I had the chance to interview Bissoon about playing rugby, the prospect of playing MLR, and how track and football helped prepare him for time on the pitch.

Jason Graves (JG): When did you first start playing rugby?

Najee Bissoon (NB): I actually started playing rugby this year! I played a little in 4th grade prior to this but that was short-lived and I also didn’t know what was going on at that time, I was just a kid running around!

 

JG: What drew you to rugby?

NB: I actually had a random conversation with a stranger at the time by the name of Idaho Joe, a former OU rugby player and captain. He asked me about playing and asked how football was going for me. Aside from that, I would definitely have to say the pace of the game and knowing that I have potential in this sport to play at an elite level.

 

JG: Do you play rugby for U of Oklahoma or a local club?

NB: I play for the University of Oklahoma men’s team, I’m sort of the new kid on the block still.

 

JG: What is the rugby environment like in Oklahoma, specifically the Norman area?

NB: I would have to say it’s pretty good, it’s steady-growing. It’s easy to get people drawn out here when you have coaching from former great players like coach Mere Baker of New Zealand (U of O backs/7s coach and NZ women’s rugby league and union legend) and coach Nueby (HC Doug Neubauer).

 

JG: A frustration many rugby coaches have is football coaches; what do your football coaches think of you playing rugby?

NB: I honestly think they are okay with it at this point, I played multiple sports while I’ve been here so I feel that they are okay with it.

 

JG: What’s your decision point to play either football or rugby after college?

NB: Honestly it’s going to come down to rather or not I feel I can potentially play for the US Eagles 7s team; right now I feel I have the potential to somewhere in the future. The way I am feeling right now, I feel as if after college I will go full-time rugby because there’s a lot the sport can offer me.


JG: Does the professional competition Major League Rugby influence your decision, especially with the Strikers in your hometown?

NB: Oh yes it totally does! I wouldn’t mind continuing to play rugby in my hometown and helping grow the sport in that area.

 

JG: How have track and football helped you train for rugby or is it the other way around?

NB: Track helps me because I can simply get out there and run while having the lungs to do it for a long period of time. Track gave me the confidence to know I’m the fastest on the pitch every time I step on it. When it comes to football, it helped me in such a way to where I know how to tackle already, track guys, and play with passion and mental toughness. My background in those sports helps bridge the gaps that may had once existed.

JG: I saw you were the 2014 Oklahoma scout team Defensive Player of the Year; could you compare/contrast football and rugby defenses?

NB: I would say it’s the same except rugby is safer and you tackle with form more so than you would with football. There’s no false sense of safety in rugby so you’ve got to use form to get a clean safe tackle.

 

JG: What do you think USA Rugby can do to further grow the game with US youth?

NB: I think just make it marketable. Follow the path of the NFL on how they market the sport. Adding a pro league is definitely a step because it gives kids that end goal if they want to play pro within the States. It seems as if USA Rugby is doing it right.

 

JG: If you could change anything about rugby in the US what would it be?

NB: I wouldn’t change anything it’s fine the way it is. We just have to get more people to learn about the sport and how it works.

 

JG: Finally, what would you like people to know about Najee Bissoon?

NB: I just want people to watch out for me in the near future, I’m going to work as hard as I can to become a household name in the rugby world and I love rugby!