Gamebreaker - Kelsin Pupunu
Gamebreaker - Kelsin Pupunu
University of Utah freshman Kelsin Pupunu (Judge Memorial HS/Kau Toa RFC) is looking to make his mark for the University of Utah 15s and 7s program this year as the PAC Conference 7s loom.
At 6-0, 190, Pupunu, a true freshman, was the top high school rugby prospect in Utah and has already shown that he can run with the upperclassmen during the fall schedule.
Pupunu got his first taste of college 7s Rugby when he competed for Utah in the Collegiate Redbull 7s in Glendale, Colo. this August.
“He certainly stepped into the mixer playing against Arizona State and Lindenwoo,” said Mark Drown, Utah’s 7s Head Coach. “I was very impressed with his maturity and composure. He took the mentorship from Chad Gough and Gabe Rufflin, both All American’s, in stride and adjusted his game, he just played better and better as the tournament went on”.
Pupunu played prep rugby at flyhalf for Kao Toa RFC, leading them to a 2016 State Final appearance and honed his 7s skills with the Utah Youth Rugby Select Side, the Utah Cannibals. Pupunu comes from a family of rugby players and athletic talent. His father, Tapu Pupunu, played for the famed Highland Rugby, Utah Haggis, and was a select player for the Great Basin Territorial Side from Arizona and Utah. Kelsin’s uncle, Alfred Pupunu, played football at Weber State and then nine years in the NFL as a tight end.
“Kelsin comes from a quality family where they emphasized education as well as athleticism," added Drown. "There is no doubt in my mind concerning Kelsin’s capability and potential; his size, speed, and rugby IQ will only grow in the next few years."
The transition from high school rugby to college can be tough, even for accomplished players. Pupunu has seen a difference.
“The difference, without a doubt, is that college 15s is a lot faster in all aspects: strength, knowledge, and decision-making," said Pupunu. "There are many more layers to understand at the college level, and Coach Law and Coach Randell are excellent at teaching this. The Utah Cannibals gave me a great understanding of the college 7s requirements, so my transition into 7s for Utah was good because I had received coaching from experienced 7s coaches who have coached at the college and national select level.
Pupunu also had some words of wisdom for kids hoping to succeed at the college level.
“My advice for young players is that practicing with your teams is not enough. You have to dedicate time outside of mandatory training to really hone your skills. I would hit the weights hard, focus on your fitness, and know that if you do not stay focused on school you will not be able to play at the next level.”
Pupunu has already caught the attention of the USA U20 coaching staff, and will certainly be a player Utes fans will be watching for years to come. (See more on the University of Utah Rugby Program go to UniversityofutahRugby.com or on Facebook.