This week on Diamond's Corner our founder, Craig Diamond, sits down with 2 time Collegiate All-American Rugby player currently playing for Rugby United New York, Alex MacDonald. Craig and Alex talked rugby, Alex's time playing in college, his time playing overseas in Ireland, and his recent injury.
Check out the video of their interview or read the transcript of their conversation below!We will be releasing new Diamond's Corner videos every Wednesday and Friday at noon, so check back for more awesome conversations with interesting people.
Craig: Hi, I'm Craig Diamond, founder of Diamond MMA. We've got a really interesting guest today. Alex MacDonald is joining us. A little bit about Alex. He's a, he's a bad ass. He played rugby at The Citadel for four years from Hilton Head, South Carolina. Two time, all American?
Alex: Yeah, two times.
Craig: So yeah, this is Alex, someone I met online and we're exchanging some product back and forth. We think some of our stuff could be, you know, a good fit in the rugby market. So we're doing some testing with Alex and yeah, I just want to get him on and get to know you a little bit. So how are you doing?
Alex: Good, Craig. Thanks for having me, man.
Craig: No problem. So yeah, tell us, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Alex: Yeah, so obviously, I'm from South Carolina. Um grew up a baseball and basketball guy, that's kind of what was around town, got into American football my senior year of high school. Dad never wanted me to play. He was afraid I'd get injured. Did his knee once upon a time. And so I got to go to college, The Citadel, like you said, and while I was there, I tried out for the football team didn't make it, needed something to do my, keep my time up from there and ended up getting a scholarship to play rugby and I didn't know much about it. I knew my uncle played and I knew it was kind of like a hooligan sport. So I was like, why not? We're in college, might as well. So I picked up rugby and it worked out played my four years there. Won my first All-American honor my senior year, I had the opportunity then to go to Life University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Alex: Competed for the National Championship and the collegiate rugby championship. Ended up runner up in both of those, but I got my second All-American honor while I was there and had the opportunity then to go play in Europe for a bit. I played for Trinity in Dublin, Ireland.
Craig: Ireland. Yeah, I know. What was it like moving to Ireland and playing there?
Alex: Oh man, I loved it. I'd never been, I mean I'd been to six states before then, just the Southeast and this opportunity came up to go to Ireland and I was like, yeah, might as well. So, packed a suitcase and a backpack and landed in Dublin. And that was that.
Craig: How long were you there for?
Alex: I played two seasons.
Alex: In Dublin, so I was in the all Ireland league. Playing Division 1 right under their pro 14. Um and I got to play all across the country there. Got to go on tour to England and got to go to Scotland, Italy, Spain, all over the place. So it was, it was pretty, pretty cool for a kid from a small beach town.
Craig: Very cool.
Craig: And then, so now obviously with what's happening and everyone is kind of quarantined and seasons are postponed right now what are you doing to stay in shape? You just work out at the house a little bit or what have you been up to?
Alex: Yeah, we're doing the best we can. So now I'm in New York City. I play for Rugby United New York in the Major League Rugby competition. And this was going to be our second season as a franchise. We were the new boys on the block last year. We ended up losing the semifinal, but we were looking to make a big impact this year. And yeah, like you said, the virus kind of took down all the leagues and trying not to lose our minds. Working out with the roommates best we can. We have little home circuit workouts we do. We have a big woodpile in the backyard. Been splitting logs and keeping us busy down there. So.
Craig: Cool. Yeah, I mean, rugby guys are cool. You know, I, I never really got to play it. I played football, baseball, hockey did a little wrestling and some jujitsu. But you rugby guys are, seem like you're the toughest guys. I don't know how I was, I watch it. I don't know how, there's just not more injuries. I mean, I know there's injuries or what can you, what's it like to have that type of physical sport and just keep going? Is it the men or it just the toughness of the athletes or is it because, you know, I just don't understand how people don't get hurt more.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. I wouldn't call myself like tough, you know what I mean? But like, yeah, obviously I can take a hit and I can give one, but like, no, I think it's, I think it's like we're not, a lot of us aren't as big as like American football players because we have to be fit as well. You play both sides of the ball in rugby. So I can tackle a guy and then two or three phases later, I'm carrying the ball myself and I'm making a pass to somebody else. So you have to be able to ideally last the eighty minutes, the entire match because once you're subbed off, you can't go back on.
Craig: At all?
Alex: No, at all.
Alex: So, this is a big part of it. And obviously the strength comes into it too because you have to be able to hit somebody and defend yourself. So we're big, big, big soccer players, or small football players, I don't know what you want to call us.
Craig: What, how much, how in eighty minutes, how much are you running? I mean, how many miles you think you're running in that?
Alex: The rugby is broken up into fowards and backs, the forwards are like myself, were kind of the "do the dirty work" and the backs are the guys out wide, they're kind of doing more of the skilled stuff you see. So when I say a forwards win rugby games, backs decide by how much. If a guy goes to 80, he'll go, he'll go 6-8k.
Craig: What do you, do you have a typical meal you like to eat before? Do you fuel up on carbs? Any, any pre game rituals that are interesting?
Alex: It's hard for me to eat on game day. I get nervous, I get excited. So I have to kind of force myself into a breakfast. I'll get up early enough just so I can get a breakfast in.
Craig: Are games typically played at the same time or just depends?
Alex: So when I played a club in Ireland, every Saturday at two thirty was kickoff. But now, now that we're professionals, we may play Friday night, maybe Saturday afternoon, maybe Sunday night, who knows? So it really sets up your whole week.
Then you have to schedule the whole week based on when when your match is.
Craig: What kind of, what do you weigh, just curious?
Alex: Yeah, I'm 235 pounds.
Craig: 235, does your weight, stay there or, fluctuate a little bit or?
Alex: Fluctuates a lot. Yeah, that's kinda, that's my fighting weight. Um now this season is over, I've already lost a few pounds. 220 range now. During summer I never break 220. Cause I go back home and I just sweat and relax a bit.
Alex: Definitely don't eat as much and I'm not working as hard. So when, when season comes around, I bulk up quite a bit, but all the guys do, every one across every position you can tell.
Craig: Who's the oldest guy in the team and how old is he? I'm just, just curious.
Alex: It's a big debate. I can't remember if it's Mike Foster, or Jimmy Denise. But they are, I'll go with Petrick for this one. Yup. No, I think he's 34, maybe 35. He's played in the World Cup for the United States quite a few times. He's got 50 something International caps playing for the United States.
Alex: Quite a player, but he's got a, he's got a wife and two little girls and still shows up every night and every Saturday.
Craig: How many, how many players, I don't know if you call it the bench or what does a team, how many players are needed out there if you, if you're really not subbing out that much?
Alex: So we have 45 guys on the roster between full time and part time guys. Part time guys just have to come to training and if they make the squad they make it. But the full time guys are kind of the core of the team I suppose. Yeah, 45 guys on roster, 23 make the game day, 15 start a match.
Craig: Got it. Okay, cool. So you know, I remember when we were first talking and you know, I thought, I know rugby guys don't wear cups.
Craig: Is that a rule that they can't wear a cup?
Alex: No, I don't think it's a rule. Just it's, it's from England and an English sport. Um, it's really big in Europe and yeah it's catching on over here now obviously as well. They just, they don't wear them. They don't have them.
Alex: So that's why, that's why I bought into it pretty quickly cause I was like, geez, I could see this coming in use. I know I get hit a few times a game anyway.
Craig: And, yeah, I mean that, and that's why it's so cool to meet you and talk to you and just see about how our products could fit in that market. And I remember a crazy story you told me. I'll, I'll let you pick it up about, I'm a pretty well known rugby player that was injured or something. Tell me about that.
Alex: Yeah, so the New Zealand All Blacks are historically, the best rugby team in the world. They have a huge winning record. They won the 2011 and 2015 World Cup. They lost the semifinal this year in the World Cup. So they are an unreal rugby team. In 1986, Wayne Buck Shelford was his name. He was the captain at the time. They were playing France and I just found this out. He apparently had three teeth knocked out that game as well.
Alex: Yeah. And gotten concussed on the same hit, whatever in 1986 rugby in France. So he gets going. And after the game he, sees one of his testicles hanging out. They went back and looked through the film and he had gotten a stray French boot to the balls and tore his scrotum open.
Alex: Walked over to the team doctor and he's like, sew me back up. The next year, he captains the All Blacks in the first ever world cup and they won.
Alex: I mean, he's a, he's a top five tough rugby guy for sure. Maybe even the toughest, I'd say.
Craig: That's pretty tough and scary. I mean, and cool. I mean, that's I'm excited. I'm excited for you guys to try some of our stuff. I'm sure you're excited for the season to get back and, you know, start getting into it and yeah, it's, it's great chatting with you and learn a little bit about rugby as it gets more popular in the US. I mean, I don't know why it's not picked up more. And yeah, I just wish you the best with all your continued success. And now tell me for the New York club, what do you, what are you working on? You got a little injury or something?
Alex: Yeah, yeah. During the last pre season match to this season I tore my pectoral tendon completely off the bone.
Alex: So today is actually seven weeks post-op and I've got full mobility and I'm good to go, doing a bit of wall pushups and bench press in a shoe. So I'm getting there.
Craig: How did that happen?
Alex: We play tackle. Um this guy played fullback for the Patriots once upon a time, was trying out for our team and I hit him and he hit me as hard. Neither of us got up. I was just on the short end of the stick that day.
Craig: And so, how was the surgery? Was it a pretty tough surgery or long?
Alex: It was a great surgery. So they first told me it'd be like nine months. They're like, this is bad, no good, hard to fix. That freaked me out. Went back a few days later for my MRI and all that. And they're like, Oh, it's pretty good. Actually, it tore cleanly here and here. We can fix that relatively easily. Looking at like five months, okay. That's okay. Woke up from the surgery and my doctor was like, that was one of the easiest surgeries I've ever done. It tore super clean and the exact right spot. You could be back in 12 to 16 weeks.
Craig: Whoa. That's amazing.
Alex: Yeah. My life went from, this is over, to, I could make the end of the season and playoffs.
Craig: What what's your rehab? What do you, what do you have to do? Is it a pretty intensive rehab for, I imagine?
Alex: Um yeah, it was at first. So we have a great physios, Upper East Side, there at Motion, they, I meet with them once or twice a week now with the quarantine I actually do Zoom chats with my physio twice a week. Got me doing all sorts of mobility stuff. You can do wall pushups. I got cleared to start doing one chin up. That's pretty good. No, happy with that. Did my ABC's today, but my mobility's back, which gives me so much more confidence. The strength will come. So.
Craig: I'm laughing because I can picture you at the gym somewhere doing one pull up, but some guy walks by "looking at this wimp with his one pull up".
Alex: That's it, yeah. Laying down five pound dumbbells doing benchpress.
Craig: You're right. That's great man. How old are you?
Alex: Twenty six.
Craig: Twenty six, so you're young man. And you got, you know, knock on wood you got a great career and season ahead of you and it was great meeting you and talking to you and where can people find you and, the club and you know, learn more.
Alex: We're Rugby United New York on all social media we're Rugby United NY, easy enough to find, competing in major league rugby. Um all of our matches are on ESPN, CBS Sports.
Alex: Feel free to YouTube and Facebook away.
Craig: How does, are there rugby clubs for kids? How does a kid start playing nowadays?
Alex: There are, it's definitely growing. So that was another part of what I was doing this season. That was a community outreach director. And so I was going to schools and clubs and just organizations around the Tri-State area to share my love of the game and try to encourage them. Like I never picked up a rugby ball until I was eighteen and I'm a professional athlete now. So imagine if someone taught me how to play when I was nine, ten, eleven years old.
Craig: Well that's what we find. Right. And we find that in, you know, mixed martial arts is that now these kids are training at that age, they are training at seven and eight years old and they're not maybe putting down the baseball glove or the football helmet, which was our only option growing up. And and now they're training or they're trained from a young age. So I would imagine rugby's going to see this surge of young studs that have been playing since they were little come out too. It'd be interesting to see.
Alex: Like, not even just encourage them to try to become professional athletes. It was all the life skills I learned through sports and happened to be playing rugby you have them as the platform, so like teamwork, comradery, respect, to quality, all that good stuff. It's just, it's just a great game. It's the soccer is the gentleman's game played by hooligans, we're the hooligans game played by gentlemen.
Craig: I like that. That's a great one. We'll end on that note and it was awesome meeting and talking to you and let's stay in contact. And when you get back into the season we're proudly going to be wearing our Diamond MMA gear and protecting the family jewels.
Alex: Me too.
Craig: Yeah, me too. Cool. Well it was good chatting and we'll talk to you real soon.
Alex: Brilliant. Thanks Craig. Thanks so much.
Craig: Have a good one.
Alex: You too man.
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