Named to the USA Selects team slated for the Americas Rugby Championship in October, Chicago Griffins prop forward Tim Paulsen has big dreams.
Paulsen spent last fall training with the Sale Sharks in the UK, playing occasionally with the Sale Jets, their B team, and with Sale FC (one level further down) while training with their academy and soaking up all he could.
It was a decision he made, taking a leave of absence from his job as a logistics manager in Chicago, to pursue a place in the elite level of rugby.
Now back with the Griffins, Paulsen is looking ahead to another big weekend for his club as the Griffins take on the Chicago Blaze.
"Going to Sale was more about training in a professional environment; that's why I went there," Paulsen told RUGBYMag.com. "I wasn't frustrated about not getting playing time. I didn't expect to play with the Sharks, and on the Jets team, the priority went to Sharks players who hadn't gotten a game that week. I was there to get whatever minutes I could and learn."
Paulsen was first exposed to rugby in high school, although he just trained occasionally with the team. He went on to play football at Lake Forest College and took up rugby more seriously then. Coming out of Lake Forest, he hooked up with the Griffins, and decided he was going to make a serious push for elite honors.
"I'm pretty comeptitive, and once I was playing in the Super League I knew I wanted to play at the highest level I could," he said.
He got that shot this past June, going into the USA camp at West Point. Paulsen said his time at Sale had helped him stay with the speed of the game, but he found he was lacking in fitness. That has been his focus ever since.
"My fitness wasn't where it needed to be," he said. "I knew I had to fix that."
Paulsen said he was lucky to get his job back when he returned to Chicago, and is grateful to his employers. Now he's focussing on the Griffins, and then the Selects.
"This season we've started well enough," he said. "We're getting some new guys in and guys getting used to playg in in the fall. Having everyone in DI, is good because you have the oprotunity to play all these teams for something. It's been two years since we played a meanignful game against the Lions."
And in October, he will be packing down for the Selects, hoping his performance is enough to get a look with the Eagles soon after.
"Above all, when I play with the USA Selectrs I want to secure set piece," he said. "I think that's first thing on the list and you have to look a long way down to see the second. I want to make sure the scrums and the lineouts are secure and we get good ball. That, and my fitness, is my main focus."