American rugby fans are familiar with the name Lou Stanfill, the long-time Eagle who retired after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but some may not have heard of Tim Stanfill, American Rugby’s other Stanfill! If you haven’t heard of Tim Stanfill and you should have. Tim is a member of the USA Rugby 15s squad; he’s also a member of PRO Rugby San Diego, in addition to having been a great collegiate player at Central Washington University (CWU) or as member of the Seattle Saracens.
Tim (currently 27) has been playing rugby since his junior year in high school. He was a member of a U-20s camp out of high school. He had a very successfully collegiate career at CWU. How successful you may ask? Well he was two time All American in Rugby 7s, and two time All American in 15s. He also was the first College 7s Championship MVP, coming up just short that year in the final from becoming a National Champion in 7s. Tim graduated from CWU and continued to play with the Seattle Saracens in the British Columbia Premiership in Canada.
We were able to catch up with Tim through one of his former CWU teammates. Below is our interview with PRO Rugby San Diego’s wing Tim Stanfill.
The Rugby Republic (RR): So what was it like when you got your first call up for the Eagles?
Tim Stanfill (TS): I actually got called up a few years ago for the old ARC Tournament (not the new Americas Rugby Championship). My coaches told me that it would be a great way to get in front of the national team coaches and been seen by a broader audience. I wanted and needed to play and test my skills at the next level, so I took the opportunity. That led to me receiving a call up for the Eagle’s 2014 November tour, which started with the game against the All Blacks in Chicago!
I didn’t feel overwhelmed when I got to join the Eagles; I actually felt it was overdue. What I mean is I had been putting in the work on my end so for me it was time. I was older than a lot of the other guys who get their first Cap, so I think I was more ready, and didn’t feel overwhelmed. I was ready and had worked towards it, and so I felt I had more “rugby smarts” by that age and was able to be calm and collected when playing. I think some guys get a look real early on, but they just don’t have the experience yet, so they can feel overwhelmed, and thus impacting their performance, which takes them longer to get back into the mix. I scored a few tires in my first Eagles tour and that really set me up for the rest.
RR: What were your thoughts when you initially heard that there was going to be a real domestic professional league?
TS: I was a bit skeptic as I think a lot of people were. I think I was skeptical until we got close to the first game. Even when we got our contracts I was still wondering would this take off still? Could it fall through? There was also the long process that it took to hire coaches, to get teams, venues, and contracts. It all took longer then expected which causes the skepticism.
I think I was hopeful along the way that it would happen, but I just didn’t get my hopes up. I had been contacted by Stephen Lewis (of PRO Rugby) and he had asked if I was interested and if this was something I wanted to be a part of? In the end its here and I’m glad to be a part of it, but I didn’t sign my contract until three days before we had to report (partly because I wasn’t sure it was still going to happen).
After the Americas Rugby Championships (ARC) a number of contracts went out, and a few of us Eagles were being sought. So a number of us when forward as a group, working on and reviewing the contracts. We had questions on the contracts, as there were gaps in them. It seemed the agreements were more in favor of the league than players, but we also had to think that it was just starting out.
They aren’t necessarily the most lucrative contracts. One of the reasons it took me so long was I was trying to negotiate my own contract because I have bills. I have had to take a 60% cut in my earnings from my job in Seattle to play professionally, but we don’t play for the money. I do have bills so I have a part time job here in San Diego as a bar back. I put my student loans in deferment and signed the contract.
We all make some type of sacrifice to play this game. I had to realize as did some of the other players that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there was no guarantee there was a next season to wait and see. I knew if I miss being a part of the start I’d hate myself later.
In the end they have invested in all of us and so we can get the league going and deal with the other areas later.
RR: Was location a factor?
TS: 100%! I had pretty much lived my entire life in Seattle so this was a opportunity to live somewhere else, but if it wasn’t San Diego, I’m not sure I would have left the job I had, taken the pay cut, and moved to play elsewhere.
RR: What is your day like as a professional rugby player in San Diego?
TS: Well it does depend on the day of the week and if we had a game on Sat or on Sunday.
We have outstanding coaches and training staff and they really try to manage the load on our bodies. It really is a fulltime job being a pro player.
We start at 7 or 8 am and can be in the training session until 2-3pm. So we could start out with a strength and conditioning session in the gym, then some skills work and a video session. Eat lunch and then on to the field for work there, and some classroom work.
We tend to train harder early in the week with more strength and conditioning, and contact sessions and closer to game day focus on speed work, recovery, tactical focus and film.
For me, I then go home and rest for a bit, eat and then go to my part-time job (which I can only do in the evening as my days are full). I’ll go into work at 6pm and then be there until close.
RR: As an Eagles player how do you think having PRO Rugby can help you and other domestic players?
TS: For a lot of us this is a big thing. Having a big stage where players can get a good look and play at the next level above club rugby is key. Steven Lewis and those guys did this to give domestic players a chance to be able to be seen and develop. I played in the BC Premiership and this is that next level.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what the competition would like, would it be like club rugby, or PRP or BC Premierships, or higher quality? I think were all pleasantly surprised the level of play that first weekend of competition. This is going to be great for the boys who aren’t at the international level or in the USA Pool yet to get that exposure, and play vs. international level players. I mean, I think the level of club rugby in the States has been dipping a bit, and so this allows those top-level guys to play at that level which is key for the overall development of USA Rugby.
RR: So far what’s been the best part of being a part of PRO Rugby?
TS: Building the culture down here in San Diego has been great! Really it’s been the chance to train full-time! At club level most guys work fulltime and train part-time, two days a week and games on Saturday. Now we can train fulltime and really develop (I still have to have a part-time job). You see the difference with a lot of guys who can play overseas or play full time, other internationals and how that fulltime focus helps them be better players.
I also get the chance to play with and against some of the top international players and really learn from guys. Like I get to play, talk and learn from guys like Kurt Morath to fine-tune my game. It’s just great to experience it and to be a part of it.
RR: When you saw the roster list, and specifically the backs you’d be playing with like Mikey Te’o, Kurt Morath, Phil Mackenzie, Bliss, Taku Ngwenya what did you think?
TS: Well we heard rumors and there was talk of who was coming, but we didn’t see the names until later. And there were a lot of guys being added later as we went along, which again at the time made me wonder is this going to happen. We are waiting to see who is still coming for sure.
In the end we are all just names on paper, and that really doesn’t mean a lot until we prove something. Names won’t mean much with out performance! Any team on any day can punch the other in the mouth, that’s real more than our names. It wasn’t until we started to play and performer that it really comes to life for me.
RR: What has been your biggest takeaway so far with your PRO Rugby experience?
TS: We have such great coaching. Coach Egan, Coach Hoad, our strength and conditioning coach is amazing!
When we reported to camp we had just 15 guys at the start, and 8 were injured or hobbling around. So we were kind of limited. The coaches didn’t burn us out with just fitness then, but rather they focused on skills. We for the most part went back to the basics. We went back to learning to run lines! How to find the gaps, focus on the skills! I learned early on here to work smarter not harder. We work on things like spacing. We also learned how to read the field not as backs, but as a side and read the field for 15 guys not just yourself or a few of you in the back line.
As a professional you aren’t above going back to the basics and that was one of the things I got to experience here. You look at the top tier counties, New Zealand, Australia, England they aren’t flashy, they don’t do anything spectacular, but they do the small things perfectly!
The coaches really focused us on working smarter not harder.
RR: So our final question. Why sport the mullet?
TS: (laughing) My dad had a mullet. I had one as a kid until about 6th grade. I then started to grow it back in college. I don’t have a reason other than I’ve had it most my life, and I guess its just me. I like the mullet. I’m also starting to loose the hair on the top of my head, so I need to sport the mullet while I can.
We want to thank Tim Stanfill for his time and his openness. He’s currently one of the starting wingers for PRO Rugby San Diego and we hope his success continues. He’s also part of the current Eagles group named by Coach Mitchell. This weekend Tim and San Diego will face San Francisco. If you can check out the games in person please do so. You see these guys have made some great sacrifices to get this league going and advance the game; at least we can support them as fellow ruggers.
You can follow Tim on twitter @TimStanfill and follow San Diego @prorugbysd.