January 27, 2009 ARN- Among the names listed for the Canada U20 team touring New Zealand is St. Mary’s prop forward Nick Wallace.
It’s an interesting place Wallace finds himself in, touring with a Canadian national team despite being an American and, until very recently, someone committed to playing college football.
Wallace was a standout play for the Chuckanut rugby club in Ferndale, Wash., just south of the Canadian border. Nurtured by the likes of Paul Horne, Milt Miller and Neil Gardner, Wallace became a highly-respected player who had the ability to play in the backs as well as in the forwards.
Wallace was accepted to Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., where coach Tim O’Brien helped him secure some financial aid so he could attend, but the young prop chose instead to play football at Western Washington University.
The move didn’t work out well. Wallace was, say his coaches, miserable. The 6-1, 265 defensive lineman was red-shirted, and was unhappy under head coach Robin Ross. Near the end of the 2008 fall season, Wallace decided to leave.
”He asked me if I thought the Saint Mary’s opportunity was still there, and we got back with Tim O’Brien and found out the door was still open,” said Horne.
”Once you’re accepted, you’re accepted, apparently,” said O’Brien. “So, sure, we wanted him. He’s a really good kid. I kept calling him through the fall to find out how he was. He didn’t call me back, but then in November he calls me out of the blue.”
So Wallace made the move to Saint Mary’s and he has started playing with the Gaels. (Following the fall season the Western Washington football program was discontinued.)
At the same time, Horne, who coached the Canada juniors, hoped to get Wallace a look for the USA U20 team. Wallace wasn’t invited to the latest camp - specifically because he would not be able to take time off school for the World Junior Trophy this spring in Kenya - and so Horne took Wallace, whose mother is Canadian, to the Canada U20 tryout.
He was perhaps the greenest player at the camp, and a complete unknown to the coaches, but he made the team.
”He was second in the bleep test among front rowers,” beamed Horne, whose Chuckanut program has produced Eagle Shawn Pittman and several highly regarded college players. “For him to get picked having never been seen before was a big deal.”
Horne, who said his hope is to see Wallace wear a USA jersey, is pleased to see his former player get some international experience with the tour to New Zealand.
Whether Wallace will decide to stay with Canada, or throw his lot in with the USA, where he is still eligible, remains to be seen.
- Alex Goff, American Rugby News