Carlin Isles might have played his last rugby game. The now famous track convert was signed to the Detroit Lions practice squad ahead of the team’s last regular season game in December. Within a week of Isles joining the Lions, the team sacked then-head coach Jim Schwartz, but Isles has signed a futures contract with the club.
That means Isles, if he’s not cut, will be participating in the Lions’ post-draft workouts and camps. Futures contracts are a way for teams to lock up players they’re interested in before the official league season begins March 11. Only players not on an active NFL roster at the conclusion of the previous season are available for futures contracts.
Isles indicated in front of NBC cameras Sunday that the USA’s 31-0 win over Spain in the Shield Final might be his last rugby game. It will be his last of the 2013/2014 IRB 7s World Series, as Isles is going to turn his focus toward making the most of his shot at the NFL dream.
Isles began playing rugby the summer of 2012 and has ascended to the National Team in record pace.
“The past two years have been a true blessing for me. Rugby in general has opened up a lot of doors and has treated me and welcomed me with open arms,” Isles told RUGBYMag. “I love rugby, I love everything that comes along with it, and I love my support group and the people who support me and my teammates, but sitting back it’s just been a crazy roller coaster and a true blessing.”
If the USA’s Shield performance is indeed Isles’ last rugby game, it’s a fitting microcosm of his year-and-a-half-long career – he started just one game, routinely came on when the Eagles were already in a hole, and he proved the team’s most potent weapon. In the history of the World Series, no player has compiled a more impressive highlight reel in as short a window as Isles, yet he’s struggled to see any consistent playing time. Despite being largely relegated to the bench, Isles scored 23 tries in 13 tournaments. Only Zack Test has scored more in the same span.
“It’s been a frustration for me, but I don’t worry about it,” said Isles of the lack of minutes. “One thing I just tell myself is whenever I get in and get a chance, there’s certain things I can do to help my teammates. The main thing is keep my teammates first, and it doesn’t matter if I get a minute’s time, two minute’s time, just be grateful for the time that I get. But it’s been frustrating at times because I know I can play the game, I know I can contribute a lot. But the coach is always right, so I just suck it up and help my teammates.”
If Carlin’s rugby career is truly over, if the fastest man in world rugby, the one who has brought unparalleled attention to rugby in the United States, the one so many fans have pinned their Olympic hopes to never plays rugby again, frustrated is exactly how America’s rugby public will feel.