Carlin Isles: Catching Up With Team USA Rugby’s Flash

Back in 2015, The Shadow League featured Team USA rugby star and former football player Carlin Isles, who’s brought unprecedented athleticism, explosive scoring and world class speed to the sport of rugby while boosting USA Rugby into the international spotlight as a force to be reckoned with. 

Fast forward three seasons later and despite battling a laundry list of nagging injuries in 2016 and 2017, Isles scored his 100th try this past March. The milestone was celebrated by a great call and video that captures the essence of why hes Rubys Flash.

Carlin Isles scores his 100th try

Carlin Isles hits top speed to score his 100th try on the #HSBC7s series

It was good to finally hit that 100th mark,” Isles told The Shadow League in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I was excited about it, especially after the injuries I fought through the past two years. Oh my god. That year and the year before that… Oooh yes. Just dealing with one nagging injury after another… To finally be healthy and able to help my teammates is a blessing because man those little injuries are frustrating. 

FloRugby on Twitter

@Carlin_Isles getting creative with @redbull for his rehab workouts. (via CarlinIsles/Instagram)

In 2013, the 25-year-old former college football player and track star was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad.

I had tryouts with the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts too, Isles, who picked up rugby in 2012 and is now considered the fastest man in rugby sevens, told The Shadow League. 

I ran some drills and caught a few balls. They liked me, but I chose to sign with the Lions. They thought they could utilize my speed and good hands.

When you see Isles on the pitch, ripping through would-be-tacklers like Saints running back Mark Ingram and sprinting around corners like Barry Sanders back in the 80s or even just working out, its easy to believe that Isles aint bluffing when he says he could have made his mark in the NFL. 

Rugby Lives on Twitter

Carlin Isles with the afterburners.. @rugbyfightsbighits

However true, by February 2014, Isles had left the Lions and took his 4.22 speed and magnetic, marketable smile with him. He accepted a contract with the Glasgow Warriors — who play in the Rabodirect Pro 12 competition with teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy — moving from sevens into the 15-a-side version of the sport.

After honing his skills, he returned to the states and joined The Flying Eagles where he built his reputation playing for the U.S. in the HSBC Sevens World Series. As a star winger Isles lightening speed and determination helped him become a dominant scorer. 

The strength of resilience and overcoming odds is par for the course for Isles, who once told me that as a foster child who lost his mom to the penitentiary and his pops to abandonment at a very young age, bounced around from foster home to foster home with his sister. He didnt even learn how to read until late junior high school because he didnt have a stable family life or educational environment. 

Carlin Isles on Twitter

Heavy sled pulls

Thanks to speedsters such as Isles and his teammate Perry Baker, Team USA is on the cusp of becoming a Top 3 force in the world. Currently the squad sits in 5th place in the HSBC Rugby Sevens standings with two tournaments to go. 

Were looking to place in the top four when its all said and done, Isles insisted. It’s going to be a battle but I think we can do it. We’ve had a couple of injury our main players, but with them coming back we can do it. We have a tough pool again but as long as we get out of that and go hard in the last two we can reach the top four. “

With both Baker and Isles healthy this season, the sky’s the limit for Team USA Rugby. 

Baker is first in the  league in most tries scored (which is like scoring TDs in football) with 37 and Isles is a close second with 35. Perry is fifth in most points scored with 187 and Isles is a close sixth tallying 177.  With over 100 tries scored,  Isles is third all-time among Americans and with over 160 tries scored, Baker ranks first among Americans and ninth in HSBC history in the category. 

Sean Maloney on Twitter

How bout it, @Carlin_Isles goes full Daniel San @WorldRugby7s #Singapore7s @USARugby7s @KT_Ten10 @robvickerman @FoxRugbyLive

When Perry and Isles are healthy and both playing “it helps a lot because we can strike at any time and we can strike fast,” said Isles. “With two players possessing our speed, the team can do a bunch of good things. Our vision and the way we read the game helps a lot too. We play off each other. When he comes on and I’m off or vice versa, we keep the pressure up. The opposition never gets a rest. We are a lot to deal with.”

The tandem’s impact on the rugby circuit has influenced other teams around the world to copy their blueprint. But those former football and soccer players havent produced the same results. 

It takes a different type of breed to understand the game and understand how to move and how to create space and utilize the gift that you have,” said Isles who made history with Baker as members of the US national team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where rugby sevens was reintroduced as an Olympic sport. 

The fastest players in rugby? USA’s Isles and Baker

We caught up with Carlin Isles and Perry Baker on this year’s HSBC Sevens World Series to find out about two of the most exciting players on the tour. Follow World Rugby on social media: TWITTER.COM/RUGBYWORLDCUP FACEBOOK.COM/RUGBYWORLDCUP WWW.TWITTER.COM/WORLDRUGBY FACEBOOK.COM/WORLDUGBY INSTAGRAM.COM/WORLDRUGBY

There can be a lot of great athletes in the game and they think its easy, but its far from it, Isles told TSL. It takes a unique individual to excel at this sport and put all the combination of skills together to be successful. Especially for people like us who haven’t grown up in this sport, but excel in it in anyway… takes a whole different mentality, work ethic, vision and understanding of what you’re seeing when you play.

The Super Bowl of Sevens Rugby is the Rugby Sevens World Cup in July which launched in 1993 and occurs every four years. Team USA has never won or even made a semifinals, but will have all of the momentum as a host city in the 2018 World Cup which will be held in San Francisco. 

I think we can do something historical and I think all of our guys should be healthy by then,” Isles told TSL. “When we get together we are going to do something phenomenal. I know that for a fact. We got one of the strongest teams in the series and we got all the talent. There’s nothing we cant do. I think we should be Top 3. I know we can win it we just have to be consistent. When it is time to show up, we have to show up.

Texas Rugby Union on Twitter

USA Rugby Sevens Team to Star in New Documentary Ahead of the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018

Rugby in the United States is making its move and Team USA is investing in programs that expose rugby to kids as young as five-years old. Following the teams appearance in Rio, USA Rugby website’s traffic spiked from its usual 200-300,000 daily visitors to 35 million during the six August days of the men’s and women’s Olympic program. 

With less kids playing football because of the increasing studies on potential brain damage, a 2018 Rugby World Cup championship would be perfectly timed and boost the popularity of the sport even further in this country. 

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