Union football player making a name for himself in rugby
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
2/05/13 at 7:15 AM
Union football linebacker David Todd plans to spend his 18th birthday in Las Vegas next week.
He isn't going there to party. Instead, he will spend his Vegas trip focused on performing for the High School All-American senior team in the USA Rugby Sevens Tournament on Feb. 8-10.
The All-Americans will face elite teams from British Columbia, Washington and Utah. A strong showing could earn him an invitation for a national team tour of London in March and South America in July. And eventually, that could lead to a chance to play in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I probably won't be celebrating my birthday until it's over," Todd said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity and want to take advantage of it."
Todd was picked for the USA Rugby Sevens Tournament when he became the first High School All-American selection from Oklahoma since 2001. That honor followed his performance in a camp with 120 participants at Arizona State during the last week of December.
"Going to that camp was the greatest Christmas present I could receive," Todd said.
Todd, who was a Tulsa World All-State honorable mention football selection in 2012, is looking at his All-America selection in rugby as more than a chance for individual recognition.
"One of my nicknames at these camps is 'Oklahoma,' " Todd said. "It's definitely an oddity to see someone from Oklahoma there. Oklahoma rugby really isn't on the map right now, so that's what I am trying to do, put it on the map."
In 2000, Todd and his family moved to Oklahoma from his native Australia. Although his father, Jason, grew up playing rugby, David's first sport as a participant was football, starting in fourth grade.
"I was Americanized real quick," David Todd said.
But in eighth grade, Todd missed the entire football season due to a broken fibula and tibia. That led to him becoming involved in rugby, where the high school season is in the spring.
"I was so bummed out being in a wheelchair for so long with no physical activity," David Todd said. "My brother, Jack, was playing rugby for the Union High School team. Two days after I was cleared for running and contact, he asked me if I wanted to come out, and the coach, Steve Ingram, asked if I wanted to play. All I focused on was hitting and running."
David's parents, Jason and Tracy, were surprised when they saw their son playing rugby for the first time.
"I didn't tell my parents," he said "I just went out there and put on my cleats. I looked over after the game and there they were. I got scolded for a little bit, and then they bought me some new cleats."
Jason Todd is now the coach of Union's high school team and is assisted by David.
"David's biggest assets are that he is self-driven and self-motivated," Jason Todd said.
"He really does help with the team. He's received a lot of high-level training at the camps he has attended in California and has a lot of knowledge he wants to share with his teammates."
While Todd won several most valuable player awards at national exposure rugby camps over the past three years, he also excelled in football as a three-year starter at Union. Todd helped the Redskins win two Class 6A state titles. As a senior in 2012, he had 119 tackles, three sacks and scored two touchdowns on turnovers.
"David is leaving Union as one of the great linebackers we've had here," Union football coach Kirk Fridrich said. "David's background in rugby helped him in football and vice versa; the two go hand-in-hand. He is a tough guy and very athletic."
Football evolved from rugby, and David Todd agrees there are many intangibles that are common to the two sports.
"You need tenacity, passion, instincts and awareness in both," he said. "Football is stop-start, stop-start. Rugby is go-go-go for as long as you can go."
David Todd is in his first season in Union's wrestling program, and that also has helped him in rugby. He was inspired to wrestle by Blace Walser, who he recruited for the Union rugby team, and the late Ronnie Balfour, who was a state wrestling champion at Union and also competed in rugby.
"I had two weeks of wrestling when I came out to the camp (at Arizona State) and found myself to be a better tackler," Todd said. "It helped with my footwork and body positioning,"
Todd uses a football comparison when he tries to explain the difference between Rugby sevens and rugby games where there are 15 players on the field for each team.
"It's like regular football and 7-on-7 football," Todd said. "In 7-on-7 football you have the seven fastest players on your side of the ball. In sevens, you are putting the skill positions from regular rugby and putting them on the field against each other. It's the hardest sport that I've ever played. There are seven-minute halves with a running clock. It's high intensity and high impact."
The shortness of the sevens matches and faster pace make it potentially more attractive to television than regular rugby matches, which have 40-minute halves. That led to rugby sevens being added as an Olympic sport.
In the 15s, Todd runs the game as a link between the forwards and backs. In the sevens, he plays the hooker position, where he is to maintain ball possession with his feet during a scrum and also is a wing.
"He's a very strong runner with a good sidestep and cut, and is well-suited to the sevens," Jason Todd said. "He's also a good open-field tackler.
"If he can maintain the level of play he showed at Arizona State, he has a good chance of going to England in March and South America in July."
Todd, who is hopeful of playing college rugby at California, is primarily known athletically in this area due to his football achievements, but that could soon change,
"People think any guy from Oklahoma is just going to be a football player who is going to try his luck on the rugby field," Todd said. "That's definitely not my case. I am a rugby player who plays football. I want to be a rugby ambassador for Oklahoma."
Original Print Headline: He's putting Oklahoma on the map in rugby world
Barry Lewis 918-581-8393
Union football standout David Todd has been named to a national high school rugby team. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World