All American Men Taking Next Step This Weekend

All American Men Taking Next Step This Weekend

Alex Goff speaks to James Willocks and the All Americans.

Jul 25, 2019 by Alex Goff
All Americans vs Glendale Highlights

Wednesday was an interesting day for the Men's Collegiate All Americans, as they got to train against the USA National Team.

The Collegiates, who will play a Canadian Universities XV Saturday in Glendale before the USA plays Canada in a test match at the same venue, have been in camp this week as the program's annual foray into international waters.

Last year's hoped-for clash with a Canadian Universities team didn't quite come off, and the All Americans ended up playing, and beating, the Glendale Raptors. This year's Can-Am fixture is hoped to be an annual thing.

Is This An Eagles Pathway?

Yes and no. FloRugby spoke with All Americans head coach James Willocks, and part of that discussion touched on whether the program exists to reward the best college players, period, or just those who project as Eagles.

It's both, said Willocks.

"First off, we are recognizing the best college players," he said. "But the second part is we are recognizing players who project to play for the national team."

Willocks said he hasn't seen in recent years players who were All Americans who left the USA to go back to the country of their birth, but said that with things the way they are, that's even more unlikely.

"With the advent of MLR, players are more likely than ever to stay in the US and continue their development," said Willocks. 

There Were Selection Camps, But ...

Not every player in the All Americans assembly now attended one of the two selection camps. That's because some couldn't attend, or were carrying injuries. But Willocks said there was always room for players who proved their worth through the college season.

As it is, about a third of the current squad did not attend a camp.

"The good thing is we had a pretty thorough onboarding process the players were able to access online, and most of the players who weren't in the camps were on last year's team, so they were pretty familiar with how we do things," said Willocks. 

Will The All Americans Always Be D1A Dominated?

Almost all of the players on the All Americans roster are from D1A teams. That's not true of the selection camps, though, and Willocks said he will continue to look at players from D1AA, D2, and NSCRO.

"There are good players at every level, but the difference, I think, is the consistent exposure to high-pressure games and situations," said the coach (who's regular job is head coach at D1AA Dartmouth). "When you have guys coming out of the Mid-South or PAC, they have regular experience with those high-pressure situations and are able to adjust better."

The Collective Attitude Makes The Coach Happy

The players have thrown themselves into this opportunity, and Willocks said he was reluctant to single out any players who have emerged as leaders simply because everyone has done what's been asked of him.

"It's been about getting everyone on the same page, and it's gone well," he said. "The attitude from the guys has been really good. The camp has been really challenging, but they've worked hard to help build a framework."

The Eagles

Wednesday as contact day for both the All Americans and the USA National Team. With Eagles Strength & Conditioning coach Huw Bevan also consulting with the All Americans, it's no surprise that the buildup is similar. 

So the two teams scrimmaged with contact, and the college players got a taste of what's to come. Saturday, we will all get a view of that future.