Wooching’s pas­sion is pay­ing off

Kealakehe grad­u­ate has no re­grets about spurn­ing NFL draft for rugby

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - SPORTS - By J.R. DE GROOTE

In late April of last year, Psalm Wooching’s phone rang. On the other end, it was the Oak­land Raiders, then — a lit­tle later — the New York Jets.

The teams were in the midst of the NFL draft week­end and were check­ing in on the for­mer Wash­ing­ton stand­out out­side line­backer, see­ing if he was still cer­tain that he wanted to pur­sue a rugby ca­reer, rather than one on the grid­iron. Wooching didn’t budge. “They were just check­ing in, ask­ing if I was com­pletely sure with my de­ci­sion,” Wooching said with a grin. “It was cool on draft day to still get calls, but I was set.”

A few months ear­lier, Wooching shocked many when he an­nounced his plan on Twit­ter to pur­sue a rugby ca­reer rather than the NFL.

“I will be ex­chang­ing shoul­der pads for short shorts and rugby boots,” Wooching wrote. “My first love and sport I ex­celled in was rugby, and it is time for me to fol­low my heart.”

It wasn’t an easy choice to make, but be­fore he made it pub­lic, he bounced the idea off fam­ily, friends, his new fi­ancée Court­ney Gano, and

his child­hood men­tors — un­cles and aun­ties, many from the Is­land Breeze fam­ily, which he grew up do­ing luau pro­duc­tions with.

“I had a lot to say,” Wooching said. “They heard me out. I’m very thank­ful for that. Be­sides some of the, ‘Dude, you could be a mil­lion­aire overnight’ com­ments, ev­ery­one was very sup­port­ive.”

When he even­tu­ally made his de­ci­sion pub­lic, he was think­ing it would be just for fam­ily, friends and Wash­ing­ton fans. In­stead, he made in­ter­na­tional head­lines as “The col­lege foot­ball prospect that spurned the NFL.”

“I don’t feel like I missed out,” Wooching said. “I feel like I have ac­com­plished my foot­ball dream. I played at the top level of col­lege foot­ball and if I wanted to play at the next level, I could have.”

Al­most a year af­ter an­nounc­ing his de­ci­sion, Wooching can feel con­fi­dent he made the right choice. The 2012 Kealakehe grad has al­ready been around the globe play­ing the sport he loves deeply and is con­nected to cul­tur­ally, and next month, he will be suit­ing up for the USA Ea­gles — the top-level na­tional team.

“When I looked back on the last year, I came up with the term ‘plat­form year,’” he said. “I got to do so much, earned a ton of ex­pe­ri­ence and put my name out there. It laid the plat­form for the fu­ture. As for this com­ing year, I think it will be one for the books.”

Wooching is cur­rently in Cal­i­for­nia, pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing Amer­i­cas Rugby Cham­pi­onship with the Ea­gles early next month. How­ever, he came back to the Big Is­land to ring in the New Year, giv­ing him some time back home to re­flect.

“The fire that drives me started here. What­ever I do, I try to bring the Big Is­land with me,” Wooching said. “It has been great to get my mind and body right. I was able to re­con­nect with a lot of peo­ple.”

Psalm Wooching has al­ways iden­ti­fied as a rugby player, but the skill set he re­fined dur­ing his time as a stand­out with the Wash­ing­ton Huskies makes him an in­trigu­ing prospect. Wooching is in Cal­i­for­nia pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing Amer­i­cas Rugby Cham­pi­onship with the USA Ea­gles — the top-level na­tional team – early next month.

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