Playing rugby is playing rugby! We all agree but, we have to admit there is a difference between playing rugby against a high level of competition (professionals, Eagles, etc.) and just being on a field. While rugby has been on the rise among the high school ranks in California, many high school players still stop after high school. Either because there isn’t a club near them, they aren’t students at a college near them with a team, or if there is a club it’s a senior club and some feel intimidated.
Now what if you played for a good high school program, wanted to keep playing after graduation, but you don’t want to play Bs for the local college (because you are at a junior college without a team)? Your option is to play for a men’s side, but that’s a NorCal D1 men’s side which mean’s some of the top competition in the county or play for a 2nd side of a college club. Well most just top playing, take an easy route (just play touch) and/or make excuses. There are some who don’t talk about how much they are into rugby, they prove it by playing rugby and even if that means going at 18 years of age from a high school side with just two years of playing into the fire that is NorCal D1! Too many people like to say they play rugby, but don’t actually play (they have a million excuses as to why they can’t play) school, work, transportation, the coach, the teams they play, they want to only play for a U-20, blah blah blah. They think saying they play rugby (played one time) gives them status. That people will think they are tough or badass. You can do that, or you actually play!
That’s what this kid did. His name is Kyler Lorin. Kyler will be 21-yrs old this September. He currently stands at 6’1” and comes in at 225lbs. He is a full-time student set to transfer this semester from Fresno City College to Fresno State and is seeking to join the Bulldogs this season. When he takes the field for Fresno State he will being two years of high school rugby experience (Buchanan High School) where he was the captain his senior year and a dominant #8. He also brings three years of playing in NorCal’s DI against Pelicans players (NorCal’s Selects), PRO Rugby players and a few USA Eagles. While younger players shy away from such a jump in competition, this kid embraced it and is thus a much better player as a result of it.
“I’m really not that exciting or interesting. I just like to play rugby” is how Kyler describes himself. What he leaves out is that he’s asset to any team he plays for due to his versatility as a utility player and commitment he has to coming out each session. While he prefers playing Center, he’s played #8 in high school, also second row and loose forward for a men’s club. Despite his preference, Kyler always says “I just want to be on the field playing. I’ll figure the rest out”.
When Kyler graduated from high school where he was a successful player in a successful high school program, he wanted to keep going. Since he was going to be going to school full-time at Fresno City College (where he’s finishing his AA in Sociology) they didn't have a team. He knew that if he played for Fresno State at that time he’d be limited to their B-side since he wasn't enrolled there. His other option was to play for the local men’s club Fresno Rugby Football Club (Fresno RFC). Both of Kyler’s high school coaches were members of the Fresno club (Gavin Tablada an old boy and Roger Skinner an active player). “I wanted to keep playing and my coach (Roger Skinner) invited me to go play with the men’s club. He had me get on the email list and go out to touch. That was a big help to go out an know someone when I got to training” reports Kyler.
However, Kyler says he quickly realized that this was going to be a lot different. “My rookie year there were some good players out there, guys with experience and a few veterans from the Fresno teams which had powered the club for a number of years in DII. I knew I wasn’t the big fish here” says Kyler. Recalling, he shared what really drove it home for him was when league play started and he was seeing teams like the EPA Razorbacks, SFGG, Sac Lions, etc. that he was really going to need to step up his game to play and enjoy playing. He also said when he joined up with Fresno they had not made the move up to DI yet (but in hindsight Kyler doesn’t think it would have mattered). He wanted to play.
In his first year Kyler while possessing size and good ball skills and consistency in making it to practices he wasn’t playing much on the first side (which made the playoffs that year). Instead of getting discouraged Kyler really took advantage of the B-games where he would show his ability to play in space, find lines to run, and just instinctively be around the ball. His efforts in those games and just his ability to always end up around the ball (either on defense or offence) drew attention of his coach and was able to get him in as a reserve for some games.
Going into his second year, Kyler showed up to the pre-season training session fit (running some of the top times in all the different runs/tests on the team). He now had an understanding of the competition on his team, the league and had put in the work during the the summer to build up his conditioning and strength (while going to school full-time and working part-time). Kyler was in the rotation that year, but didn’t break into the starting line up until half way through the season when he was put into the starting line-up as a forward against his teams’ oldest rival (Santa Rosa). Kyler’s performance in that game solidified him as the perfect utility player. “His work rate in that game impressed me. He was at the breakdowns challenging, he was getting great line breaks with ball in hand, and when everyone else tired out he kept going at the same pace for another 20 minutes” recalled his Coach Frik Fouire. That effort also got the consensus of may of his peers to advocate to have him on the field realizing his value.
“Some of my teammates told me to be in the pack just for the set pieces, but after that to get out into space, find work and play like a center when not in set pieces” shared Kyler. That season a number of Kyler’s peers got a chance go to the Pelican’s trials (for different positions), but Kyler who wasn’t necessarily a player who would have made Pelican’s at that time said he did want a chance to complete. “I know other guys who were going up who were not as fit, quick, or committed as me, and most those guys didn’t even finish out the season”. For Kyler this was a blessing as it just gave him incentive to play harder and be ready when the opportunities presented themselves.
In his third year (that just passed), Kyler was an experience player on a team that didn’t have great depth who again due to his versatility (size, speed, fitness, work rate, ball skills) was a starter (most times in the backs), but when needed started as a forward. As a forward however Kyler would get into space and have a great work rate. “When PRO Rugby started during our season, we saw a number of guys from a number of teams we were playing getting called up. I though to myself we’ve been playing against this level all this time and while I’m not those guys I can hold my own on most days” Kyler shared thinking back. That gave him a big confidence boost.
Now Kyler is set to complete his AA this summer, and is working to be enrolled at Fresno State for the spring semester for their season. Kyler (who is still working and still in classes) said he was not able to play 7s which he felt would enhance his game, and has been involved with some of the summer weight sessions Fresno State has been having, but hasn’t been able to participate as he’d like because of this work and class schedule. “I wanted to play for Fresno State this year, for one reason only. If I’m going to school there I’d like to play there. I think it would be a great part of my college experience to play for my school. They now have a great program starting and it would be nice be a part of that” said Kyler about Fresno State.
If his transfer goes through, this spring Kyler will not be the new kid when he starts at Fresno State, there are a few guys there whom he played with when in high school and he’s familiar with a number of the coaches (who also use to coach many of the area’s high school programs which he played against). “I think it will be good a experience, and when done with school I will go back to the men’s club” explains Kyler. For Kyler he hopes that the competition he’s faced the past few years in NorCal’s DI will help him in playing college rugby with athletes either closer to his age or experience.
We had asked Fresno State’s Head Coach Patrick Quan before the summer about the possibilities of Kyler enrolling at Fresno State and playing for the Bulldogs, he responded with “I’d love to have Kyler in our program. The kid can be a great player. He’s really versatile and his experience now would be a big boost”. Kyler has been working to complete the transfer requirements. Fresno State’s Coach Quan has been recruiting many of the local high school players to play for the Bulldogs including a few players who’ve been involved with the Eagles Impact Rugby Academy (EIRA). Needless to say Fresno State is looking to compete in becoming a program looking at long-term competition and players like Kyler will be key.
So, Kyler’s story may not be anything special or unusual, as he pointed out but we think it clearly shows the difference between guys who play rugby (meaning they go through the yearly grind, getting better, playing/competing for time, playing against higher level competition and playing regardless of who you are playing against). Too often players and some coaches may use excuses for kid, saying that they need to play a u-20, they can’t play vs “men”, they can’t jump from high school to club. Players try their hand a club level after high school and usually see that just their athleticism alone won’t carry them that they aren’t the dominant player or the big fish, that they’ll have to work or earn their way up and it’s just easier to stop. Its easier to make excuses, its easier to tell people you play rugby (and use a picture of the one time you tried rugby as your profile pic on social media) so people think you play than to actually play. Playing rugby while fun, can hurt, can wear you down, can take time, can be a grind and if you don’t love all those things then maybe this isn’t the game for you. Players who continue after high school are the guys who commit to the game. They don't talk, they learn, they study, they develop their rugby IQ, they develop their skills, they train and they play.
While Kyler isn’t the only player out there to go out of high school to club, and he’s not the only one on his club to have done that, his is the story we had followed for the past few years so that’s the one we could write about. We have to say hats off to all those guys who are always grinding, always playing up, looking to improve themselves vs better competition.
This story is about a guy going the other way, high school to club then to college versus the more traditional approach of high school, college, to club. In the end its really about a rugby player. A guy who just wants to play, not a guy looking for excuses, not a guy who is looking for an easy way to play, or where he’ll shine. Its about a rugby player just trying to play rugby…period.
We wish Kyler the best of luck this coming year and look forward to seeing what we can do for a up and coming program like Fresno State.