The decision between focusing on his future with the Detroit Lions and playing rugby is one Carlin Isles is still wrestling with. He signed a futures contract with the Lions and is slated to join the team for offseason activities after May’s NFL Draft. Sunday in front of NBC cameras, Isles said USA 7s was probably his last rugby tournament, and it appeared it would definitely be his last for the rest of the 2013/2014 World Series.
However, Isles is still training with the 7s team in Chula Vista, Calif. and has decided to make himself available for at least one more tournament – Wellington Feb. 7-8 – while he contemplates staying on the rugby path or making a run at the NFL. The choice between NFL money and rugby money seems like an easy one to most, but Isles isn’t most, and his decision is not all about money.
Most sprinters don’t qualify for the Olympic Trials only to forgo the Trials and switch sports. Most kick return specialists who walk onto their DII college football teams don’t get a shot at the NFL years later. Most don’t lead a developmental team under the watch of the National Team coach in tries at a highly competitive international tournament, earn a training contract, get called up to the IRB World Series and score 23 tries in 13 tournaments (and limited playing time, no less) all within 18 months of picking up a rugby ball.
Isles has a fiancée and wants financial security, but there are other factors in play, too.
Cloaked in Isles’s statements to RUGBYMag minutes after USA’s winning of the Shield in Las Vegas was frustration with a lack of playing time. Isles is apparently not the only contracted player frustrated.
Also weighing on Isles’s decision is the team’s performance. The Eagles are squarely in 14th place on the circuit, and if Olympic qualification began today, there’d be no reason to expect the USA to be one of the 12 teams participating in the Games. Remember, Isles was drawn to rugby because of its inclusion in the Olympics, and he turned down a 15s contract overseas, partially because he wanted to stay on the Olympic pathway.
Isles is also a religious man, evidenced time and time again in interviews and Facebook and Twitter posts, and he values the platform to praise God he’s found as a rugby star. He won’t likely have the same media exposure as an NFL practice squad member.
If Isles's decision proves to be between sitting on the bench for a losing rugby team with an outside shot at Olympic qualification or sitting on the bench for an NFL team with an outside shot of having a lucrative career, Isles is likely to pick the latter. If his decision is between starring on a competitive rugby team with a realistic shot at making the Olympics or sitting the bench for an NFL team, he may just choose the former.
By deciding to stay with the team for Wellington, Isles has given himself a little more time to identify and weigh his options.