How Ahmad Harajly Became and Eagle
How Ahmad Harajly Became and Eagle
When Ahmad Harajly sat in the USA 7s team meeting to learn who would be going to the Wellington 7s, he knew what to expect; he was wrong.
“If you rate my expectations from one to 100, with 100 being I know I will be on the team and be the captain, and one being my grandfather has as good a chance as me to get picked, I’d have rated my chances at a five,” Harajly told Goff Rugby Report. “So when they got to the 12th name and they said ‘Ahmad’ I was like ‘Wow!’ I couldn’t believe it.”
The selection was the culmination of a fascinating journey for the young Detroit Tradesmen player. Harajly was rarely one for organized sports. At Dearborn HS in Dearborn, Mich., he played street football every day, but didn’t want to play organized football. Still, in pickup games he was good, and one day a friend told him he should try rugby.
“He only said it once and then waked away, but the idea stuck with me,” Harajly explained. So he started playing for the Dearborn Silverbacks high school team his junior year. Coach Pat Khalaf put him in at lock, and by his own admission, Harajly wasn’t very good.
“I was in a football mindset and just wanted to tackle people,” said Harajly. “So I was OK at that, but I didn’t know anything about running with the ball. I just wasn’t that good.”
But that summer, he made a decision. He liked rugby, and wanted to be good at it. He began studying the game, watching games on YouTube. He started his own workout regimen, and when his senior season, started, Harajly scored four tries in his first game.
After that, Khalaf said he had a pretty good group of forwards anyway, and moved Harajly to flyhalf.
“I was able to develop some of my skills and work on my catch and pass,” said the now 21-year-old. Dearborn made it all the way to the state final, but with Harajly hobbled by a leg injury picked up in the semis, they lost the championship game.A year later, Harajly, like a lot of his friends, started playing with the Detroit Tradesmen. Once again, in a new environment, he didn’t play all that well.
“I have good hands but I was dropping the ball all the time,” he said. “I just needed to work at it.” This past season he scored 15 tries in eight games playing outside center. Eager to try for more, Harajly found Luke Gross’s email address at USA Rugby. He asked Gross if there was a way he could be seen by the national team, or at least, was there some way he could try out? Gross forwarded Harajly’s name to USA Rugby 7s HP Manager Alex Magleby, who advised Harajly of the open Recruitment Camp in January.
“At the time I wasn’t down for 7s,” Harajly said. “I’d played only two 7s games ever. So I asked if this was a way to be looked at for 15s.”
Magleby said yes, and since Harajly, who works as a med tech at a medical company in the Dearborn area, had put some money aside, he decided to fly out to Chula Vista and try out.
“It was tough,” Harajly explained. “I am not the most confident guy until I start playing, so I was kind of unsure about myself. They worked us hard and wanted to see our skills and if we were coachable. I guess I am because I got the call asking me to change my travel plans and stay. That whole High Performance Camp was new to me. I have been coached by Pat Khalaf with the Silverbacks and Jed Elley at the Tradesmen - both good coaches, but they’re coaching the whole team. I had never before been personally coached - coached in how to pass. I was pushed to my limit. I have never run so much.”
And then there was that meeting where his name was called. Things have changed very quickly for Harajly. A few weeks ago he was just another good young player who didn’t know how to take the next step, let alone whether he could could make the next step or not. But, just as he took it upon himself to become a better player in high school, he took it upon himself to find out how to move up. And while normally this story would end with the message that a young player needs patience to get to the Eagles, but it will happen one day, this one chapter ends with a launch for Ahmad Harajly from everyman to national team player.
He still wants to play 15s, but for now, representing his country in 7s holds great allure.
“I know I shouldn’t expect a lot of minutes, but I will get to play, and I hope I can maybe earn a start,” said Harajly. “I really still can’t believe it.”