GLENDALE, Colo. – As a part of Glendale’s ongoing effort to develop American rugby players and pave the pathway for collegiate players to step up to the professional level, the General Manager of the Colorado Raptors, Mark Bullock, is excited to announce another partnership with a committed collegiate program, Duke University Rugby Football Club.
“We are not only targeting members of the rugby program, but really any varsity athletes matriculating from Duke, whether they come from football, basketball, wrestling, track and field, or ice hockey, it doesn’t matter, provided they are passionate about the opportunity to continue their sports career after university. Once we identify these individuals, they are given the pathway to advance from our elite development rugby academy to our professional team, the USA National Team and USA Olympic Team,” Bullock said. “The possibilities are endless for young athletes looking to cross over into this sport, but they must be willing and committed to make the change and, of course, have a clear pathway.”
This affiliation with Duke University RFC is the second of its kind for the Colorado Raptors, after recently announcing a nearly identical partnership with Clemson University in July. Shortly after that announcement, Bullock met with Duke University Recreation Sports Program and rugby staff in North Carolina to get a feel for the program and see if it would be an equally good fit for both groups, as well.
“The partnership with the Colorado Raptors is a great step forward for Duke Rugby,” said Duke Coach Johannes Van Graan. “The partnership will result in a higher level of coaching which, in turn, will produce better rugby players for the future. We hope to see many Duke student/athletes wear the Colorado Raptors colors after graduation. We are very excited and thankful for this opportunity.”
The Colorado Raptors is a professional rugby team headquartered in Glendale, Colorado also known as RugbyTown USA. It is home to all aspects of the sport, from the professional Raptors team to a strong amateur adult and youth programs. A founding member team of Major League Rugby (MLR), the Colorado Raptors are storming their way through the third season of professional U.S. play.
Training with the professional side, and adding depth to the future ranks of both MLR and divisional teams, the Raptors Rugby Academy is a forward thinking, European-style training squad – a hallmark of RugbyTown USA’s dedication to growing the sport nationally. Glendale is also home to Men’s and Women’s divisional amateur clubs: the Merlin’s. Competing in both Pacific Rugby Premiership and the Women’s Premier League, the Merlin’s represent the grassroots backbone of RugbyTown USA.
Bullock has been instrumental in developing programs that promote the crossover of elite athletes from other sports into rugby. For the past two years, the club has hosted a week-long camp in September, that culminated with Bullock bringing a side mixed with new and seasoned rugby players up to Aspen Ruggerfest to compete in the men’s elite division.
“Our goal here in Glendale is not only to raise the level of rugby in the U.S., but to also increase the exposure of the sport and create players and individuals,” Bullock added. “As we now have an established partnership with Clemson, we are very eager to bring Duke into the mix and allow for both universities to be templates for future affiliations between professional rugby teams and top-notch collegiate rugby programs throughout the country. We are always building for the future, and we really believe it’s partnerships like these that will pave the way.”