Perry Baker Speaks About Team USA’s Success
USA Sevens Star Baker Sees CRC Growth A Key Part Of The Rugby Plan
Perry Baker stood and paused for a second and looked at the sold out crowd in Las Vegas this past March. The United States Sevens team had just defeated Kenya to move on the semi-finals of the USA Sevens, and the stadium was rocking.
“This is so amazing to think where this sport has come, and where it is going,” he said. “The opportunities for the guys following us in the years to come are going to be even bigger and better.”
Where “it,” Rugby Sevens, is going, is the Rio Olympics, with Baker and his teammates already qualified for this summer’s games. However, what is even bigger in the years to come is the continued development of sevens rugby as a “go to” sport for rising athletes in the United States, and one of those key places for growth is the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the first weekend in June in Philadelphia.
While Baker did not play sevens in college at Fairmount State, his size and lightning quick speed (not to mention his pedigree, as the nephew of former NFL star Wes Chandler and brother of former NFL and AFL player Dallas Baker) made him a great fit for Arena Football, a spot where he excelled for two seasons before discovering Sevens Rugby, his sport of choice, and something he sees expanding even more going forward.
“The NFL is the illusive dream for many, but there are some great athletes who never get the chance or don’t fit into the scheme of a particular team, and Sevens is a great fit,” he said. “I am hearing from more and more college and pro football players who are interested in what they are seeing with the Olympics and the CRC being on NBC, and it can really be an interesting option both in the States and in a career overseas.”
The CRC has produced several stars who have gone on to fame after their time playing at a high level in college, with a list that includes Madison Hughes, Seamus Kelly and even New England Patriots Nate Ebner, who made his mark helping New England win Super Bowl XLIX.
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While Baker did not get that chance in college, he sees the growth of the CRC and college sevens rugby as critical to the game’s growth.
“You see the level of play at the CRC and how much it has gotten deeper and stronger and you really see a chance for the future, something I wish I had when I was in school,” he added. “I loved playing football, but this is such a new and different option, and you can understand how the college game is rising, at schools big and small, it makes great sense and is really important for the game.”
As the USA Sevens preps to compete in Rio in just a short few days, the next Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship will have its share of future stars who will be looking to emulate, and even expand, Baker’s vision for Sevens success with a professional and perhaps even Olympic career.
“We are really just building and focused on the moment, but in the future will there be more crossover between football stars and those playing rugby sevens, I think so, it’s such a great game and I’m glad I can help move it along to a new level.”