From football stadium to rugby pitch

Instead of relaxing and enjoying his final semester at Norwich University, Sean Southworth couldn’t resist the chance to compete at the collegiate level one last time.

Southworth, a senior business and accounting major from Exeter, N.H., was recruited during his senior year of high school to play football at Norwich. Since then he has been a three-year starter earning him three varsity letters. He was also a part of two legendary seasons winning the Eastern Collegiate football conference, launching a D-III playoff appearance. During his senior year he was voted team captain.

The men’s rugby team practices for the upcoming season. (Ivy Ceballo Photo)

The men’s rugby team practices for the upcoming season. (Ivy Ceballo Photo)

With all the accolades and awards he earned, Southworth was still hungry for more. However, at the conclusion of his senior football season he had different feelings. “By the time it (football) was all over in November my body and mind was exhausted,” Southworth said. “Playing another sport was the last thing on my mind.”

Depending on the schedule, football can end anywhere from early November to December and the preseason workouts start in January of the new year.  “We call this our cool-off time,” said Matthew Gallagher, a junior criminal justice major from Morris Plains, N.J.

Between the end of the season and workouts the athletes spend most of their time recovering from a tough season and finishing up the school year with good grades.

“Everything felt normal until I got back to school in January,” Southworth said. “Once it was time for lifts to start I had nothing to do.”

Both of his roommates are juniors on the football team. “My friends would all leave for practice and I was by myself,” he said.

Southworth tried P90x and Insanity, two very extreme workout programs. “I just didn’t have anything to work towards,” he said. “Going from being a football player 24/7 and working towards a championship to nothing is devastating.”

This all changed when Southworth received a call from men’s rugby head coach, Bob Weggler. “He gave me a call one afternoon and asked me if I was interested in playing,” Southworth said.

He thought about it for a couple days and called Weggler back and accepted the offer.

“Rugby is a very different game,” Southworth said. “I went from being an offensive linemen restricted in movement, to a guy who had to be all over the field.”

Southworth had to lose some weight and work on his conditioning. “My position in football required me to be big and strong,” he said. “For rugby, I had to be fast and light.”

Making friends on the rugby team wasn’t much of a challenge either. “I already knew most of the guys on the team and the ones I didn’t were very welcoming.”

Although the sports are similar, they are very different as well. “It’s two different teams, two different practices, two different sports,” Southworth said.

Only 1 percent of high school athletes participate in collegiate athletics. An even smaller percent participate in two.

“I know a couple of athletes that play multiple sports at Norwich,” Southworth said, “I really respect what they do because it’s not easy playing one sport, and two is even harder.”

With the conclusion of his senior year only a month away, Southworth has big plans for the future. “I’ll be working in sales for a software company in Boston right after graduation,” he said.

Rugby is very popular in New England, especially in Massachusetts. “A couple guys from the rugby team play in men’s leagues during the summer,” he said, “I’m thinking about trying out.”

Southworth is a great example of expanding your horizons and experiencing everything Norwich has to offer.

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