2016-04-07 / Sports

MacLellan amped for pro rugby premiere, future of new league

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


EMPIRE NATIVE Angus MacLellan advances through an opponent during his playing days at Davenport University, where he won back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012. 
Photo: Steve Zomberg EMPIRE NATIVE Angus MacLellan advances through an opponent during his playing days at Davenport University, where he won back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012. Photo: Steve Zomberg A few months ago, Angus MacLellan landed the best job he’s ever had.

A few months from now, MacLellan will hope to keep it.

The Empire Township native recently agreed to terms with one of five teams competing in the newly formed Professional Rugby Association league, PRO Rugby North America, in its inaugural season. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound prop will make his pro rugby debut on April 17 as a member of the Ohio team.

“I’m hoping for the best because I’ve enjoyed it so far and I’d like to keep doing this,” said MacLellan, a former member of the USA Eagles international team and Davenport program. “Basically, it’s going to come down to the fans. Even interviews like this are helpful, plus all the Facebook and social media stuff we’re doing. We have good players in the U.S. Now we just need fans to come out, buy memorabilia and watch games. That’s going to be the big determining factor in my mind, growing revenue. I know the players are there and the sports market is there in the U.S. for this. It just comes down to the fans buying into the teams and the sport itself.”

The 2010 St. Francis graduate is more than qualified for his new job.

MacLellan came up through the Traverse City Alliance team in high school before his playing days at Davenport, where he helped the program evolve into a rugby powerhouse. The Panthers won back-to-back national championships in 2011 and 2012.

MacLellan spent two years with the USA U-20 team and captained the USA Collegiate All-American Team before joining the international team.

He took an unlucky step back from there, however, tearing his ACL a few months before the 2015 World Cup.

“It was the first really major injury I’ve ever had, and the timing was not ideal,” said MacLellan, 23. “I was in the mix to be one of the younger players on the team in the World Cup, but at least it happened at the beginning of my career and not in the middle of my career. I’m young, I can recover and get back to where I was very quickly.”

He has high hopes for the fan-driven future of PRO Rugby North America, which also has teams in Denver, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. Fans will determine team names and mascots over the course of the three-month season.

“The league feels that’s the best way to grow the sport and give the fans what they want,” he said. “The hope is to expand to an eight-team or 10-team league. Right now we’re the only team this side of the Mississippi.”

He said the league schedule taps into the Sunday sports vacancy left during the NFL offseason, and that teams will be comprised of mostly U.S. players.

MacLellan has faith in the sport.

“I’ve never met someone that has played rugby or tried rugby and not fallen in love with it,” he said. “It’s the ultimate teamwork sport, a combination of physicality and using your mental skills to make decisions on the spot.”

He’ll hope to make a living doing just that for years to come.

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