Norlin excited for new sport’s team to tackle field

by Aaron Young

When you think of athletes tackling each other, running past defenders on the turf and putting a little blood, dirt and sweat on their jerseys, your initial thought is football, right?

Well, think again.

Simpson College has started its own intramural rugby team due to the efforts of Chris Draper, Director of iSc.EDI and is in charge of the college’s new business incubator, according to head rugby coach Jake Norlin.

“He’s friends with President Byrd and they got to talking,” Norlin said. “Chris is a die-hard rugby fan and said, ‘Hey, I think I have an idea that can bring people to Simpson.’ It would help keep football players if they wanted to quit for whatever reason to keep them on campus, bring more people here and raise more money for the school.”

Norlin said Draper had called him about coaching the team. When asked if he wanted to be a part of the team, Norlin immediately responded “Heck yes.”

“We’ve had several meetings with Nicole Darling (Assistant Director of Student Activities) and Jim Thorius (Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students) setting up how it’s actually going to be structured,” Norlin said.

The rugby team is a club sport as of now, being stuck within the intramurals category. But Norlin is hopeful that the team will move beyond that into a varsity role.

“Hopefully we’ll get out of that soon, but that’s decided by the superiors,” he said.

Norlin has an extensive rugby background, so there is no better fit for the job. He started playing the sport his senior year of high school instead of going out for track.

“It was the best decision of my life,” Norlin said.

He attended Iowa State University, but also having experience in football, he was a little unsure as to if he wanted to try and walk-on the football team. But once he started playing rugby in the spring, Norlin said “no” to football.

“I played rugby all throughout my days at Iowa State,” Norlin said. “Loved every minute of it. Got to go to some unique places to play and got to meet amazing people from around the world.

He has also coached two years at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa as well as at Des Moines, Lincoln.

“When I was in school doing my student teaching at Lincoln, and started up their high school team there,” Norlin said.

Getting back on track with the Storm’s rugby team, the squad has begun practices on campus. The first week consisted of trading their T-shirt and basketball shorts attire for some real rugby wear.

“We have uniforms, we have track suits, we have practice gear. Everything the team needs, we’ve got,” Norlin said.

The Storm focused on a lot of ball handling, which according to Norlin is important because the team has a lot of football linemen on the team that haven’t touched a football in their life other than handing it off to the quarterback.

“Now they have to be able to throw it,” Norlin said.

They have also worked on a lot of running, strength and conditioning exercises.

“Rugby is a very intense, physical game so they have to be in shape,” Norlin said.

All in all, Norlin has set the bar extremely high, but thinks the goals are very much attainable.

“I expect us to win at least three-fourths of our games,” Norlin said. “We’ve got some pretty big-name schools coming in around the Midwest like Nebraska-Lincoln, Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, so I’m expecting to win a majority of those games. And I’m expecting guys to give me their all every practice and every game.”

Norlin thinks it is going to be intimidating on his guys facing those big-time schools, but knows that they can compete.

“It’s doable, you’ve got a big mountain to climb but it’s climbable,” Norlin said. “If they do give it their all every practice, every game and every minute of every game, there’s no doubt in my mind that they can be victorious.”

This game can get pretty dirty in the sense of blood and injuries, but Norlin thinks his guys know what to expect.

“I think they’ve watched YouTube enough to know that some things can happen,” he said with a chuckle.

Lastly, Norlin wants everyone to know that anyone can play.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re 300 lbs. or 110 lbs, it really doesn’t matter because there‘s going to be a position for you on the team,” Norlin said. “If you’re undecided , just come to a practice and see what it’s about.”