Playing football on scholarship for a DI program is the dream of thousands of athletes, and it’s certainly a thrill to achieve it, and a lot of fun. It can also be a job.
So in some ways it’s not surprising to hear the enthusiasm in Arizona State tight end Trevor Kohl’s voice when he discusses rugby. The Sun Devil football player was given the all clear to spend his spring playing rugby for Arizona State by Head Coach Dennis Erickson, and now he can’t wait to get started.
“Playing football here is great,” Kohl told RUGBYMag.com. “I am on a full ride scholarship and I love it, I am living the dream. But now that I can play rugby, it is the ultimate; I have no complaints.”
The Urban Planning and History major played rugby for Mesquite HS in Tempe, and is eager to get back on a rugby team.
“I loved rugby in high school,” Kohl said. “We were really successful; we won a lot. It was fun and a nice way to stay in shape. Rugby made me the football player that I am.”
Kohl grew up dreaming of playing football for Arizona State, and passed up a chance to be on the USA U20 rugby team to walk on at ASU. He made the squad, and earned a full scholarship and a starting position at tight end.
Mostly used as a blocker, Kohl makes the odd reception, and does acknowledge he’d like to see the ball a bit more. Maybe that will happen in rugby, where Head Coach Gary Lane is seriously thinking of moving the former No. 8 to center.
“It doesn’t really matter to me what position I play in rugby,” said Kohl, who will be joined by fellow tight end Chris Coyle, a complete rugby newbie, on the Sun Devil rugby team. “The opportunity to be on the varsity squad is enough for me.”
Of course that opportunity wouldn’t have happened had not Erickson allowed it.
“He didn’t say much to me about it,” Kohl recounted. “Rugby’s been in the back of my mind since I got here, so I went up to him and asked if I could play. He said it was fine with him but don’t get hurt. Then he asked me for the schedule so he could watch the games.”
The rugby season doesn’t infringe on football spring practices, so Kohl is free to play.
“Then Chris asked to play, and he said it was OK,” added Kohl. “We just keep saying to ourselves, you can’t get hurt!”
A true junior on a five-year study plan, Kohl has one more season of football left and three more of rugby (USA Rugby gives players five years of college eligibility; this coming season will be Kohl’s third). He plans to make the most of it.
“I have talked with Coach Lane and I like him a lot. I probably need to touch up on a few things in rugby, and I’m planning to do more running and cut a few pounds for rugby.”
It’s something Kohl is looking forward to, but he also knows this is the big test. If, as many rugby followers believe, Kohl and Coyle return to the ASU football team in better shape, with better contact and ball skills, then it will all be a success – even better for them is Arizona State rugby has a good season.
But if it doesn’t go well, what will Dennis Erickson’s response be the next time a player wants to double up?
“All the players like to stay competitive, so I think more guys might want to come out next year,” said Kohl. “But Chris and I are the guinea pigs, perhaps Chris more so. When I get back to football, I can guarantee I’m coming back a better player.”