Eagle Q&A with Seamus Kelly

After starring in both football and rugby at Xavier High School in New York, USA Eagle Seamus Kelly took his many talents to the Bay Area, where he was a four-time All-American at Cal. In May of 2013, the outside center was reunited with his high school rugby coach, Mike Tolkin, and earned his first international cap against Canada.

Kelly, 24, will look to build on his 15 total caps, while also helping to strengthen the cohesion of the Eagles’ back line during the fast-approaching Pacific Nations Cup. His first chance to take to the pitch this summer will be July 18 versus Samoa at San Jose's Avaya Stadium.

USA Rugby: You’ve only been with the Eagles for just over two years, but have become a mainstay in the back line. How has your role with the team evolved and do you feel yourself becoming more of a leader?

Seamus: I’ve been lucky enough to have some great players and coaches help me evolve as a player and a teammate along the way. I’d have to give most of the credit to them for getting me to that point.

As long as I’m making the players around me better and more productive I see myself as a leader.

USA Rugby: You recently had an opportunity to perform with Gloucester on a trial. What did the trial teach you about your individual game and being a professional rugby player?

Seamus: The trial was a great experience. More than anything it showed me that there’s always work to be done, always a skill to develop or improve on. Some of the most experienced and successful players there, like James Hook and Greg Laidlaw, were among the hardest workers.

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As far as my individual game goes, it reinforced the importance of basic skills and concepts. The ability to pass off both hands, beat a man one on one, make open-field tackles, and execute a game plan were key to strong performances.

USA Rugby: Who is the last teammate you’d want to room with on tour and why?

Seamus: Blaine Scully. He drinks more coffee than anyone I’ve ever seen; there’s no way he can sleep at night.

USA Rugby: If you had to play in the forwards, which position would you play and why?

Seamus: I’d have to begrudgingly say hooker. With my build I’d say I’m only a few pounds off from ending up there, anyway.

USA Rugby: Mike Tolkin was also your coach in high school. What makes Coach Tolkin such a good coach? Was he more intimidating as your high school coach or your coach with the Eagles?

Seamus: Coach Tolkin brings a lot to the table, but I think his ability to set a team culture that is uncompromising to the responsibilities that come with representing the USA is key to our recent and future successes.

The stakes are a bit higher now, but he was definitely more intimidating in high school – especially as a freshman. My first match playing for the varsity side was nerve-racking to say the least.

USA Rugby: What are your goals between now and the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

Seamus: We have a great lead-up to the World Cup, with quite a few opportunities to put in strong performances as a team – but everything is geared towards the World Cup. My goal is to be a key contributor to the team in any way I can throughout the summer, and ultimately put myself and the team in the best position possible to turn some heads in England come September.