The YouTube highlight video “Carlin Isles. Olympic Dream” has caught fire, accruing over 1.2 million hits in less than a week. It’s been shared on popular sites like Thebiglead, Rugbydump and DailyMail, garnering more attention than any other American rugby video.
The reel showcases five of the six international tries scored by Isles, now being tabbed the fastest man in world rugby. We labeled him the fastest man in American rugby back in July.
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Isles has received plenty of feedback from people who’ve viewed the video. “Yeah, a lot,” he told RUGBYMag.com. “It’s overwhelming, but it’s a blessing."
The 23-year-old former DII football player turned Olympic track hopeful qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 100 meters. A long shot to make Team USA for London, he moved to Aspen, Colo. to train with Team USA assistant coach Andy Katoa and give rugby a chance, oddly after looking up another crossover guy, Miles Craigwell, on YouTube.
Not surprisingly, many close to Isles told him he was making a big mistake by not running in the Olympic Trials. The highlight video has slowed some of that criticism.
“It’s showing them that my vision that I had and the blueprint I had is panning out,” said Isles. “All the sacrificing I did and all the work is starting to pay off. It’s a good thing.”
Isles, averaging around just four minutes a game in South Africa and a little over three a game in Dubai, is leading the Eagles in tries this season. Nigel Starmer-Smith, the venerable IRB announcer, said Isles is the fastest man he has ever seen on a rugby pitch. So there’s a lot of positive response to Isles, and the fact that he recently became engaged just widens his smile.
But the speedster knows he can be better, and he has a long list of things he wants to improve on before the Eagles reconvene at the Olympic Training Center in January.
“I’m trying to work on my speed endurance, which I thought it was OK. I’ve figured out that my speed endurance is good, but I need it at a higher pace. And my lateral movement. I’ve been out of football for a while. My strides are so long, it’s kind of hard for me to cut a little bit, so I’ve been working on my lateral movement, my speed and my speed endurance,” he said.
“I want to up my strength. My upper body is not where it should have been. It’s a lot, which is a good thing for me, to know I can improve more. I’ve also been working on my kicking and stuff like that. There’s a lot of skills people haven’t seen yet that I’m capable of doing.”
While it appears to be all pats on the back and congratulations for Isles now, he’s had plenty of naysayers since playing in his first tournament in June. Highly respected club coaches and players have questioned whether or not Isles should even be on the National Team, whether or not he deserves the opportunities he’s been given.
“I hear a lot of the negative stuff, and I was taught not to pay attention to it, but I like to pay attention to it. It motivates me,” said Isles.
“I can’t control what people say. I respect what they say, negative or positive, but at the end of the day, I’m going to prove to you that I’m great, that I can be great and I will be great and that I deserve everything that’s happening to me, because I put in a lot of hard work and I went through a lot of obstacles to get to where I am.”
Isles has been on a quest to prove himself, not only to his detractors, but coaches and teammates, since picking up the game a few months ago.
Aspen didn’t have a good summer on the West 7s circuit, and Isles wasn’t on the original draft of the West 7s All Star roster. Thanks in part to injuries and unavailability, Isles became one of the last two players to make the squad. Then all he did was lead the tournament in tries.
“Whenever I moved to Aspen and I started training with Andy [Katoa], I worked. I worked hard and I worked on everything I had to do, because I wanted to be the best and I wanted to show people,” said Isles.
“I believe that I deserved it, and I proved it. I had a chance in Canada when I got invited to the development tour before I even signed a contract with the USA Eagle squad. I had to show Alex Magleby that I am a great learner and could be great. And a lot of the negative stuff that people have said to me, that I don’t deserve it, I do deserve it.”
When he arrived at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, he knew he had to earn the trust and respect of his teammates.
"Even though my coaches believed in me, I had to prove to myself, and also to my teammates, that I’m not just fast. I’m not the type of athlete that’s one dimensional. I really had to work hard, and work harder than everybody else, to show them that I want to be there and appreciate working with them and having this opportunity. I had to prove myself over and over again…Everything I got in my life is just proving to people."