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Wooching Discusses Rugby Decision

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Wooching Discusses Rugby Decision

University of Washington football star Psalm Wooching found time to play some 7s rugby this past summer for the Seattle Saracens. The longtime rugby player has chosen rugby over football now that he has graduated.

During the middle of the University of Washington football team’s superb run through the fall, starting linebacker Psalm Wooching had already made a decision - this would be his final football season.

The former Kona Bull rugby player in high school, who played both football and rugby at UW, decided he was not going to make himself available for the NFL draft. He had other plans.

Psalm Wooching playing rugby.
Psalm Wooching playing rugby.

 

Top to bottom, Psalm Wooching scoring a try for the Seattle Saracens, pushing through for University of Washington rugby, and lining up a conversion for the Kona Bulls circa 2012.

 

Psalm Wooching playing rugby for the Kona Bulls.

Playing football for the Huskies during their run to the BCS playoff “was amazing,” Wooching told Goff Rugby Report. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior year, going as far as we did. Having that brotherhood and chemistry built with that team, it was awesome. But, I kind of made the decision that I was going to pursue rugby a little past the middle of the [football] season. I felt I needed to pursue it - it was my passion, my dream. Rugby’s like a little brother always nagging at you saying ‘c’mon, come play.’ I had to do it.”

So after the season was over, Wooching posted on Twitter a statement saying he would be trading in his shoulder pads for rugby boots.- Wooching Chooses Rugby over Football - The announcement made news throughout various sports outlets, which surprised the UW linebacker. Maybe they expected everyone to try for the big football payday.

“If it was for money I would go for the NFL,” said Wooching. “But I just love this game. There’s something about it. Rugby players know - it’s a different feeling. The brotherhood we built our senior year at U-Dub football is something that’s ongoing in rugby.”

Wooching played his high school rugby for the Kona Bulls on Hawaii’s Big Island, and was seen in a 7s tournament on Oahu by High School All American Head Coach Salty Thompson. Thompson brought Wooching to a camp and offered a spot on the next tour, however Wooching, having already committed to playing college football, declined. No hard feelings, and in fact the two remained in touch. (Thompson continues to be in touch with several former HSAA players who are now in college football.)

“Salty was the first one to see me,” said Wooching. “I learned a lot from him and I learned a lot from my first coaches - John Nuualiitia and Moa Noble. They had a big influence on me.”

Wooching went on to play football at Washington, getting in some rugby games whenever he could.

“Division 1 football is a full-time gig and there’s not a lot of time for other things,” he said. “But playing rugby was what I loved to do and I kept on doing it. I played for Washington and the Seattle Saracens and really enjoyed it, and it helped me get that love back. Playing with the U-Dub was awesome. Some of those boys have never played before. So I was able to help them with the knowledge I have gained.”

At the same time, Wooching did some work with Atavus football. The Atavus football people would work with the UW football coaches to learn safer tackling techniques, and Wooching would be the one asked to demonstrate the tackling to the rest of the players.

“I am kind of in that middle ground person where I played football at the Division 1 collegiate level and play rugby as well, so I was able to demonstrate the tackling - it was great to play that role,” he said.

So then on to the next chapter. Wooching, 23, has already graduated with a degree in Medical Anthropology (we asked him to explain it and it’s very involved so we’ll just leave it at being very interesting, and not easy to master), and was looking for the next thing. That next thing is rugby, and he decided, without any contact with national team coaches or any commitments from anyone, to make his announcement.

“I write my goals down and hold myself accountable to them, and this was my goal, my dream, to play rugby,” he said. 

Right now, he’s been hard at work. Wooching credits Chris Prentice and the staff at Atavus with helping him prepare. He has been working hard at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle with Eagles Mike Palefau, Kevin Swiryn, Peter Tiberio, and Shalom Suniula.

“Working with those guys daily and learning from them - players who have played for the US - has been awesome,” he said.

Can Wooching step right into a high-level game? He probably can. He played 7s for the Saracens last summer and played very well. He has continued to keep his hand in the game, and as a 6-3, 220-pound athlete with good hands and D1 football speed and power, he could be a huge asset to the USA 7s team in short order.

He hasn’t heard from major coaches so far, but he’s not worried about that.

“I haven’t spoken to [national team] coaches because I haven’t really played yet,” he said. “Once I get out there, I hope I get some contact.”