Setting the bar high

Jonah Simental Evergreen Club Sports reporter

When freshman DeShon Bell isn’t studying for exams and playing video games, he is training to become a new edition to the USA Eagles Rugby team, a feat that most collegiate rugby players across the nation strive to accomplish.

“I’m really pumped, I’m super excited, I just got to train harder and condition harder for the next three weeks,” Bell said.

USA Rugby invited Bell via email to Tempe, Ariz., where he will join a number of other Junior All-American hopefuls from across the U.S. in late December.

This season Bell has been a key player for the WSU Men’s Rugby Club, which is currently 2-1 with wins against Eastern Washington and Idaho and a loss to Central Washington. In the two games Bell played this season, he led the Cougars in tries scored with four including three scored in a blowout victory against Idaho.

Growing up in Shelton, Bell played football from fifth grade until his senior year in high school. During his junior he participated in his first rugby practice, and after that he was hooked.

“My first year of rugby was pretty cool,” Bell said. “I picked up the game pretty fast and made the all-star team my first year, it was pretty exciting.”

With his goal of making the USA Rugby team in his sights, Bell spends his days getting up early for a 5-mile run across campus before he goes to his morning classes. During the evening, Bell gets a good lift in before he finally settles down for the night and enjoys the life of an avid gamer.

“I like competing at a high level and being faster and stronger helps with that,” he said. “I want to be able to go up and develop a better rugby career.”

Rugby and football often times draw comparisons because both sports share similar qualities. However, despite the fact that both are physical contact sports, they are still very different, Bell said.

“(Rugby is) a higher tempo, it’s more of a strategy game rather than a physical game,” he said. “There’s a lot of differences. You don’t want to use the sidelines, you don’t want to go out of bounds on offense, the tackling mechanics are different, and it’s just an overall different sport.”

WSU Rugby Club Head Coach Matt Hudson deserves credit after with giving Bell the opportunity to go to the Junior All-American camp, where he will work for the privilege to don the red, white and blue, Bell said.

“Matt Hudson is dope,” Bell said. “He’s the one that really hounded USA Rugby to get me a tryout. I feel like he does the best for his players, like he goes ‘players first’ and tries to help them out and help them succeed in their goals. He’s passionate about the sport and he’s a great coach.”

As a former football player, Bell was able to see many key differences between rugby and football when it comes to staying healthy and injury-free. Rugby players play without pads, and there’s stoppage in action after every play. While leading with the head is becoming a recurring issue in football, Bell said that’s more of a rare occurrence in rugby.

“In rugby, you have no gear, and so you don’t really want to lead with your head because if you hit your head against someone else’s head, it’s going to hurt you as much as it’s going to hurt them,” he said.

Bell said he plans on making it on to the USA Eagles roster and hopes to play rugby professionally in Europe one day, a journey that could have possibly ended in Shelton when the physicality of sports almost got the best of him from day one.

“My very first rugby practice we had this big Polynesian kid, and we were doing tackling drills, and he was my partner,” Bell said. “He just kind of ran me over and dislocated my shoulder.”

However, a week and a half later Bell was back on the field.

“Rugby was probably the best thing that happened to me in Shelton,” Bell said.