Could Denard have a career in rugby?

Submitted by MGoGoGo on August 18th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

A recent post noted that Denard was currently not on an NFL roster and comments suggested that he should begin preparing for a career outside football.  I know very little about rugby, but Denard's speed, toughness and ability to see the field seem like they would translate well.  Curious to hear the opinion of people who know rugby well as to whether it might be a viable option for Denard.



August 18th, 2017 at 12:46 PM ^

Instead of starting a new thread, let me piggyback on this one and ask my own question:

Could Denard Robinson have a career in Animal Husbandry, specializing in the extraction of semen from bulls using "teaser animals" and/or artificial cow vaginas? 

Any input here would be appreciated. 


August 18th, 2017 at 12:47 PM ^

Possibly. The unknown variable is how much his ulnar nerve injury prevent him from being able to toss/catch the ball. 

Carlin Isles didn't start playing until 2012 and debuted for the US national team that year. He is quite a bit faster than Denard but Denard is much bigger and likely more skilled decision maker/has better vision. 


August 18th, 2017 at 12:54 PM ^

Could he play Rugby Union?  No.

Could he play Rugby Sevens?  Absolutely.

Speaking of which, The Rugby Championship starts this weekend.  6 weeks of round robin for Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  It makes for good early morning pregame viewing while you are waiting for college football to start every Saturday!

Go Springboks!


August 18th, 2017 at 1:18 PM ^

he would have to play the wing in 7's too. I love denard but he never seemed like a guy who loved contact. You have to love contact to play rugby.

More guys should do it though. Nate Ebner made the transition from rugby to NFL and is a special teams guy/depth safety with NE. Those types of guys are littered around the NFL that a lot of them cant stay on rosters.


August 18th, 2017 at 2:29 PM ^

In my somewhat informed opinion, sevens is a lot more about speed and having a couple of quick moves than skill passing/ kicking/ etc.  15s would take a lot longer to develop the feel for the game (though maybe he could play wing since they pretty much just run when they the ball and don't worry as much about passing or kicking).

That said, in sevens everyone needs to be able to tackle and I don't have an opinion on Denard's desire to hit people.


August 18th, 2017 at 1:00 PM ^

It would be interesting to see how he could do in Rugby 7s where the field has a lot more room to operate. (I see very little chance to succeed in the traditional 15s game at a high level)

The experiment is not without precedent as Carlin Isles (AKA - the fastest man in rugby) has had a modicum of success at the international level.  Denard would bring a shiftiness that I imagine would make him a similar threat to score every time he touches the ball.

The negative for Carlin would also hold true for Denard - he would be a definite liability every where else on the field due to his lack of rugby knowledge and tackling ability (rugby tackling is one of the most demanding and underestimated skills in any sport).  I am of the opinion that USA 7s national team is better without Carlin Isles (my Denard comparison) on the field.  Although he makes the game exciting when he does get the opportunity, good international teams can compensate with defensive scheme and exploit the mismatches that a poor defender / skilled rugby player creates for their offense.  


August 18th, 2017 at 1:14 PM ^

The fundamentals of the game are very important, and super athletes simply aren't well-rounded enough to immediately play. I coach HS rugby and I convinced a few of my school's college bound football players to come out to practice (DI, DII, JUCO). While their athleticism was impressive, their tackling technique was horrific and they couldn't pass very well at all. There's a lot more to the game than being fast.


August 18th, 2017 at 1:15 PM ^

Denard is loved around here for a lot of non-football reasons.  He was always smiling, seemed to have a genuinely positive and infectious attitude.  Cared about others, gave 100% effort and seemed to be pretty smart.

You know I'm going to go WAY out on a limb here and suggest sometihing radical.  I believe I guy possessing those abilities and traits might, just might, have a career IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN ATHLETICS!

I know if I needed a salesperson in the Ann Arbor/metro Detroit area I'd try and hire him in a nano-second.  He'd kill it in sales IMO.


August 18th, 2017 at 1:23 PM ^

Based on limited personal experience in the auto industry, sales seems like a good possible gig for Denard. (Wouldn't have to be auto-related ...)

There were a humorous amount of former D-1 football players working as manufacturers reps. Customers loved those guys (even the ones from directional schools).


August 18th, 2017 at 1:29 PM ^

I agree. I'm a huge Denard fan.  Like you said, he has a terrific personality, was generous with his time, cares about others and was a terrific part of the UofM community. He would make an awesome sales person, team leader, etc.  But, he's also a 26 year old elite athlete who may want to continue his career in athletics--or not, who knows. 


August 18th, 2017 at 1:24 PM ^

as other have noted, especially in 7s with all that available space. Can he tackle? I mean, the guy is an otherworldly athlete, so I don't see why not. The only thing holding him back might be his sunny disposition. He might just be too nice for rugby. Or pro sports in general.

But speaking as someone who played a lot of OLB and safety in HS football then started playing rugby in college, you have some hard-wired habits from growing up with football that have to be undone:

Example 1: Football training was to tackle by putting your head into or across the ballcarrier's chest. Which is how I ended up being hospitalized overnight with a concussion in my inaugural collegiate rugby match. 

Example 2: Football instincts say fight for every yard when you're carrying the ball. Rugby is more tactical-- that last yard (or meter) is less important than finding and pitching to your teammates in support or getting turned and setting up the maul instead of trying to run through the tackler.

Conclusion: rugby is fun as all hell and Denard could probably get good over time, but is there seriously no NFL team that needs an athlete like that?


August 18th, 2017 at 1:43 PM ^

As far as Rugby Union goes (15 players a side, 80 minute games) very few U.S. players make an international Pro roster and they have been playing rugby for many years. Most U.S. players start playing in college so while they have the talent and athleticism there's a huge gap of development. Imagine playing Pro Soccer after learning how to play at age 18. So it's highly unlikely that Denard would have any kind of career professionally. 

Having a rugby 7s (7 players a side, 14 minute games) career is possbile. This is the rugby you see in the Olympics. These are very quick games that rely on speed, open field tackling, and passing skills. I played with a college track star who made the USA 7s training camp and was nearly capped. He had a year of experience and was probably a little faster than Denard. Denard would need to seriously dedicate himself to the sport for a couple years to have any shot IMO. Sam Mcguffie tried playing on the Men's Club level scene and didnt make much noise. 

FYI to all you parents- Rugby is a great sport for kids to learn safe tackling, running, quick decision making skills, and many more things I wish i had learned before playing football. It's also safer than football and funner to watch than soccer. 


August 18th, 2017 at 1:45 PM ^

He could play either 15s or 7s. I agree with many he'd be best at 7s, but I see zero reason why he couldn't play 15s. Remember, he could pooch punt pretty well. Slot him in at 12 where there isn't much kicking and he'd be great (assuming his ulnar nerve doesn't mess with his ability to catch/toss the ball). A lot of the quick decision making of the zone read would help him in switches, loops, skips, etc.

I played 15s and 7s through college and a bit after college in New Zealand. I see no reason why he wouldn't be competitive. Would he make the US 15 team in 4 years--odds are low just by sheer numbers, but it isn't impossible.


August 18th, 2017 at 1:54 PM ^

There is no way Denard would play 12 or have the kicking skills to play internationally or for the US in 15s. Kicking a football with 6 lineman blocking for you does not equate to the skill rugby requires with kicking in a game of constant movement. Centers are much bigger than Denard and the ones that are his size play that position because they have some of the best skills in the world. 7s is possible yes. 15s, no way.  


August 18th, 2017 at 2:01 PM ^

Not to mention the knowledge of the rules and field strategy he would need to learn as a wing (which is the only position he could realisticaly play in 15s) That kind of Rugby IQ takes many years to develop. 


August 18th, 2017 at 2:36 PM ^

I dabbled in rugby in college, but never learned the game.  Could anyone recommend a Rugby for Dummies website that might explain it well?

Ali G Bomaye

August 18th, 2017 at 2:59 PM ^

No, not at all. Rugby is a very skilled game, and world-class rugby players have been practicing those skills since they were teenagers. Unlike football, rugby doesn't have any positions that are so specialized that all a player needs to do is run, kick, or throw.


August 18th, 2017 at 3:56 PM ^

Maybe if he wants to die. Getting hit by big guys in football is one thing with all the pads. Getting hit by a 275 lb man with no equipment... he'd probably snap.