He’s had the chance to be an Eagle before. He’s been invited to camps, but he’s usually opted to stay in school and play for the University of Utah. That’s worked out so far, as he co-starred in the Utes’ run to the inaugural Collegiate Rugby Championship on national television.
Now, though, Don Pati is ready to take his shot, and the allure of a standing on a podium to have a medal draped around his neck has a lot to do with it. The 15s and 7s All American scrumhalf departs Thursday for a pre Pan-Am Games camp at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., where he’ll try to earn a seat on the plane to Guadalajara.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, to see if I can make the team for the Pan-Am,” said Pati, “and if I do, I’m going to do it.”
If Pati makes the team, he’ll miss three or four weeks of school and a chance to help the Utes qualify for the inaugural USA Rugby college 7s national championship via Pacific 7s (Pac-12) in Palo Alto, Calif.
“I’m kind of putting the Pan Am games first, and if I do make it that’ll be great,” he said.
“It’s similar to the Olympics, and I think that’s the reason why I’m interested in making the squad for this assembly. I have a couple of classes that I’m kind of hanging in the loop on basically, and I have some exams going on, but I’m trying to work my way around it.”
Pati, like several recent or soon-to-be college grads, has his eyes on the 2016 Olympic Games, where, rumor has it, rugby is making its return. He sees playing in the Pan-Ams as a step towards the rings.
“For me, 7s I’ve never really looked into it really deep, and I never thought to myself I could have played 7s, but just knowing that it’s going into the Olympics, and one day you’re going to be an Olympian if you make it, that’s a great thing to aim for and set a goal to make. It definitely changes the way people like myself think of it.”
Pati played a little competitive 7s in the summer with the Utah Warriors, but his club season was cut short by a nagging knee injury – he is now one meniscus lighter.
Last time he played 7s, and in front of USA coach Al Caravelli, was as an All American in the 7s national all star championship. He wasn’t fit then, but knows he’ll have to be if he’s going to make it to Guadalajara.
Pati says he’s been working hard on conditioning and doing so on a knee that’s no longer bothering him.
If he shows up to camp in shape and truly healthy, Pati has as good chance as any to make his Eagle debut in Guadalajara.