Football Player Turns To Tennessee Rugby
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – April 5, 2017 – The University of Tennessee’s David Nuckolls is looking forward to playing in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship for the second time, hoping that this year he will portray less of a footballer and more of a rugger.
“I would say it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever been a part of. I’m ready to comeback,” said Nuckolls. “It’s the whole experience from the moment you leave. You get to meet so many other schools and get to talk rugby and food.”
Although a senior, Nuckolls has only been playing rugby for a little over a year, having joined UT’s team midway through last spring. He grew up in northern Georgia where he started playing football at age four and continued up through Community Christian School. From there he himself an athletic scholarship to Point University in northeastern Georgia. However an injury cut his football career short.
In his own words Nuckolls recalled the accident during a game his freshmen. “I got hit straight on and I tried to juke: I was cutting to the left when I was getting hit from straight on and as soon as I cut, I got hit from the left as well. It tore my meniscus and fractured my kneecap. It was just one crazy accident.”
Afterwards Nuckolls was on crutches for six weeks and in intense physical therapy. It wasn’t until four to five months after the incident that he was at as much recovery as he would ever make. He recalls many memories of worries about “Am I going to be able to come back from this? Am I going to mess it up, again?”
However, since the accident Nuckolls found he just wasn’t as fast as he once was in terms of lateral movement. He attempted playing for a junior college in Kansas but it wasn’t working out. He realized he would never have a chance to be in the National Football League and decided to focus on an academic path. He transferred to the University of Tennessee and has been pursuing a Sports Management major and a Business Administration minor. Additionally he interned with the school’s football department as a recruiter for a while to see another side of the industry.
Although he was still involved in football to some degree, he missed the camaraderie of a team sport. Andrew’s brother, Quincey, had been trying to convince him to give rugby a try for years as a former Kennesaw State University player. One day while walking across campus he ran into someone with a University of Tennessee Rugby bag on them and asked him about the team. From then on he started going to practice and didn’t turn back once, when he discovered old injury didn’t seem to hold him back from this new sport.
“The first game I played in I thought I was going to be okay. I was transitioning from football. I had done rehab and everything and I was in really good football shape and thought I was in shape for rugby. I threw up four times my first game. They are two different beasts,” said Nuckolls. “Out of all the sports that I’ve played it is definitely the hardest sport as far as endurance wise.”
Unfortunately last year when Nuckolls came to the CRCs he tore his hamstring in a match against Cal. He is looking forward to getting more play time in 2017.
“He’s turned out the last couple years to be a really good player for us. He’s a wing. He’s a fast guy…he’s a missile when he runs. He has no fear,” said Tennessee’s Head Coach Martin Bradley.