Tigers’ Casey signs letter of intent to play rugby in college

Gage Casey signs his letter of intent to play rugby at American International University on Friday at B&H Sports as his parents look on.

Gage Casey’s decision to play rugby a year ago turned out to be a $150,000 decision.

He can thank his younger brother, Marsh, who talked him into playing for the Grand Gents. And Doug Evans, his coach. And another coach, Josh Macy, for whom Casey will play at American International University.

Casey signed a national letter of intent to attend AIU on Friday at B&H Sports. His scholarship is reportedly $30,000 a year.

Growing up in Grand Junction, Casey, who placed third at 160 pounds in the Class 5A State Wrestling Championships as a senior at Grand Junction High School, never thought rugby would take him so far.

“I didn’t think about it at all,” Casey said. “I thought I’d just end up going to Mesa.”

The Gents were in their third season when they made the state final this season. Evans said such opportunities for college scholarships are particularly possible — as compared to, say, football — because of the sport’s relative lack of popularity. Hence, less competition and a higher demand for quality rugby players.

Like Casey.

“(Coach Macy) told me I’m fearless,” Casey said. “And being a flank you have to be fearless.”

A flank is the football equivalent of a defensive end. The player has to be willing to hit and, conversely, be crushed. Casey happened to pick a sport that fits his talents.

“I knew he’d love it,” said Marsh, who also plays for the Gents. “You get to hit. And rugby is more casual than football. After a game you’re not hating each other, you’re all brothers.”

Evans said Casey’s scholarship was the first in the Grand Valley and probably the most lucrative awarded this year in the Eastern Rockies Football Union, which he said includes statewide rugby club teams.

Casey’s scholarship also began with a connection. Bob and Shirley Kahler live near Dixson Field, where the Gents sometimes play. Macy, the AIU coach, is their grandson. So when Macy made a recruiting visit to Salt Lake City, he flew back to Grand Junction to visit family and watch a Gents game.

“And he liked the kid,” said Bob Kahler, pointing toward Casey.


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