Alex Hodgkinson revives rugby career after leaving Syracuse football team

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] Alex Hodgkinson lay in his bed on a Tuesday night in early August, unable to fall asleep. Doubt crept into his mind after the third day of training camp with the Syracuse football team, for which he was a walk-on kicker and punter.Hodgkinson knew the other punters on the team outperformed him that day. He stayed in Syracuse all summer to work on his craft, but didn’t think he was progressing any longer.The thought never left his mind: He wanted to play rugby.“I just began thinking to myself, ‘Is this really what I want to be doing anymore?’” Hodgkinson said.He stayed up all night. He called his dad, but he didn’t answer. The next day, without talking to anyone, Hodgkinson went to Steve Gregory, SU’s special teams quality control coach, and then to head coach Scott Shafer. His mind was made up.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHodgkinson and Shafer reflected on his time with the team. They had a heart-to-heart and “shed a few tears.” And then, Hodgkinson left.“It was a very quick decision,” Hodgkinson said. “I’m instinctive like that. I felt it and it was in my heart. I didn’t want to go in there another day without feeling like I was 100 percent in it.”Not long after leaving the football team, he joined the Hammerheads — Syracuse’s club rugby team. He’s hoping to make the men’s collegiate All-American team and, eventually, the United States national team. Without the rigorous commitment to Division I football, Hodgkinson’s honed in on reviving his rugby career and jumpstarting his business-related goals.He first picked up rugby as a kid living in London. He worked his way up the ranks and played for the Wasps, a professional club, until leaving for SU in 2012.As a freshman, he played for the Hammerheads and led the Empire Rugby Conference in both kicking and touchdown points, Syracuse head coach Robert Wilson said.Re-joining the rugby team after leaving the football team was a seamless process. He was already one of the best players on the team three years removed from the last time he took the field.Playing football enhanced Hodgkinson’s physical capabilities, with Wilson adding that Hodgkinson is now bigger, faster and stronger than nearly every player on the rugby team.“He’s also way ahead of most players in terms of technique and skill, which is huge,” Wilson said. “He’s been able to do things that we’re still trying to teach others to do because he’s been doing it since he was 8 years old.”Hodgkinson plays fly-half, which Wilson described as the rugby equivalent of a quarterback. It’s allowed him to use his decision-making skills, something not necessarily required of him as a football kicker.Earlier this year, a director from USA Rugby’s High Performance Player Pathway came to watch the Hammerheads play a game. He was especially impressed with Hodgkinson and invited the senior to a tryout for the men’s collegiate All-American team. That tryout will take place later this academic year.Hodgkinson wants to climb the ladder of national teams, but he has other ambitions to fall back on if rugby doesn’t pan out. He recently started a car-racing club and teaches people in Syracuse how to drive high-performance cars on racetracks. He also plans to start a silver jewelry business with Sam Reimnitz, another player on the rugby team.Despite leaving football behind, his aspirations are not lost on his former head coach.“He’s going to do great,” Shafer said. “I told him that I’m going to stay in touch with him because I want to be a part of some big idea he has and try to make some money off him some day.”Hodgkinson misses Shafer and the football team. He misses the camaraderie of the team. He misses being on the sideline for games and in the locker room after wins. He wishes he could walk into the weight room and say hello to Will Hicks, the assistant athletics director for athletic performance.When he sees his former teammates on campus, he sometimes questions himself.There will always be some reason to doubt the decision he made, Hodgkinson said. But ultimately, he believes he made the right one.“At the end of the day, you want to be playing your sport,” he said. “And when I come out here and I get this buzz, it makes it all worth it.” Commentslast_img

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