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All Americans Part of McGowan's Journey Back

College Men

All Americans Part of McGowan's Journey Back

Center or wing, it doesn’t seem to matter these days, Kingsley McGowan is just happy to be on the field, and rugby fans are happy he is, too.

McGowan scored a try for the Collegiate All Americans on Wednesday as his team swept Cambridge University. For McGowan, this All American assembly is not only a nice cap to a season where he helped St. Mary’s win a national championship, it’s a cap to a long, arduous road back from injury.

Coming off the 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy win with the USA U20s, McGowan spent some time training at the Olympic Training Center, seemed poised to help the Gaels take charge in 2012-2013. But then he suffered a catastrophic knee injury in a non-contact training. He injured his ACL, PCL, MCL, and meniscus.

“I dislocated my kneecap and popped it back into place right there,” McGowan told Goff Rugby Report. “But I knew it was bad.”

It was very bad. He was unsure whether he could even play, and was not allowed to run for six months. Ultimately, the injury would put him out of commission for 14-and-a-half months.

“I had to re-learn how to walk, jog, cut, and run,” McGowan said. “It took a physical toll but also a mental and emotional toll. I felt like I was building something as a player and then had lost all my momentum.”

But McGowan, who started playing rugby at St. Thomas HS in Houston, Texas when his history teacher told him “you go to one practice, and you’ll be hooked,” got to work. Once he was able to run, he was able to run as a bigger, stronger athlete.

“I felt I was stronger, fitter, faster, once I came back,” he said. “I had to re-train my body. I started eating really clean - all organic. I started working on my balance. Now I am the strongest I’ve ever been, and the biggest.”

The results can be seen quite easily. Against Life University in the DIA Final, McGowan may have still looked slight, but he handled contact without much difficulty and caused plenty of problems for the Life defense. He earned an All American callup, and lined up at outside center in the first game outside Lindenwood’s Kansas City product, James Poli.

“I try and prove is can handle the contact any time I play,” said McGowan. “I may not be the biggest center - James Poli outweighs me by about 30 pounds - but I am OK with cutting back inside and going into traffic. I used to be a scrawny wing, but I’m not anymore.”

With the All Americans, McGowan said he was pleased to see how the team adjusted to Cambridge, especially in the first game (won by the Americans 27-15).

“They ran an outside-in defense, and we saw that and said, ‘let’s not really worry about getting the ball wide early; let’s play tight and let the forwards do some work,’” explained McGowan. “Then we knew we’d get some wide strikes later. That takes a bit of patience for backs to watch the forwards take it to the defense. But you have to analyze the game flow. Coach Thabu (Phil Eloff) talked to us about the adjustments we needed to make in the second half, and we made them.”

The All Americans will finish their summer assembly against an older, physically more imposing Ontario Blues this weekend, but sweeping Cambridge as been a nice experience, even though it’s been a long season.

“We’ve had a lot of rugby, all of us,” said McGowan. “If you told me on May 13 that I would have 14 trainings and hours of film analysis I would probably have said I wasn’t ready. But it’s been really good. Team morale is strong, and we’ve banded together as a brotherhood of USA guys with one common goal. We have fun and joke around, but when we need to be in a competition mindset we switch it on.”

It’s still fun, just as it was when Brett Mills Jimmy Wolfinger, and Johnny Brown got McGowan started at St. Thomas.

“I am really proud of how rugby has grown in Houston,” said McGowan. “You look at the test matches they’ve had there and the attendance they get. To think of Houston as becoming a rugby town. I came to Northern California where it has been strong for a while, and to see the growth in Houston since I came here is great.”