Back in 6, But at 11

D1A Rugby: Back in 6, But at 11
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MARIETTA, Ga. – When 6’6” 238 lbs., Life University senior and star loose forward Cam Dolan injured his knee playing against Canada for the USA Select XV, he wasn’t too sure what had happened. 

“Initially, it wasn’t painful.  It just felt like maybe my knee got dislocated and then popped right back in.  I tried to stand on it and it didn’t seem right,” Dolan said.

After trying to run on the sidelines, he decided he would be a liability to his team, so he sat out the rest of the game.  The pain the next day and the MRI confirmed that something was indeed not right.  He had torn his ACL.

Dolan, who captained the Select XV (a developmental side for the senior national team) in that match, recounted his thought process after he got the diagnosis,  “First, I was bummed that I didn’t get to play that last match against Uruguay.  Second, I thought, ‘I want to get this fixed ASAP.’" 

WASTING NO TIME

“I mapped out a six month rehab plan by myself.  I also worked with the sports science staff at Life, which was really helpful,” Dolan recalled.

Six months was not an arbitrary number he snatched out of mid air.  He was injured October 16 and had surgery shortly after.  He wanted to be back playing for Life by the playoffs and help his team to the D1A National Championship.

He was cleared to play four days before Life’s D1A Quarterfinal against Army on April 27.  Almost six months, to the day, after his surgery.

THE BEST 15

Life’s Head Coach, Dan Payne, has a simple philosophy that has some not-so-simple ramifications.

“I want the best 15 players we have on the field.  Sometimes that means doing some unconventional things,” Payne said. 

Dolan’s is certainly one of the top 15 players at Life and probably one of the top 15 players in the country at any level, but it wasn’t like the team was struggling without him.  They had lost only one game (barely) to then #1 team in the nation, Arkansas State in Jonesboro, Ark.

Payne - a former international loose forward with a Rugby World Cup under his belt - liked the way the back row was playing, the chemistry it had developed.  He didn’t want to mess with it.  So, he looked at where his returning star might fit.

Dolan has played sevens at the international level, played some blindside flanker and a lot of eight man.  So, he’s good in open space, is used to being a “bookend” in defense, and accustomed to dropping back in kick coverage and great under the high ball (remember he's 6'6").

When Life released their roster for the quarterfinal at Army, Life and USA fans were thrilled to see Dolan listed at all, but then did a double take.  He was listed at 11.  Left wing. 

‘A GREAT TEAMMATE’

It made sense when you thought about it.  Left wing.  He’s coming back from injury, so you want to bring him back gradually. OK.  He’d be stepping off his left foot most of the time.  Yeah, that makes sense.  He’s got the skill set and the speed. OK, yeah, I get it.

Dolan’s willingness to leave his comfort zone and play out on the wing, his six month plan, his work to get back in time for playoffs, all of these things are traits that indicate a great team guy.

“Cam’s been such a great teammate,” Payne said, noting that Dolan has kept very close with the team, helping out however he could whether that was running water from the sidelines or mentoring younger players.  He was selfless.

Dolan proved his coach’s point when we asked about what he hopes his legacy at Life will be.  He deflected and said, “My legacy? I don’t know.  I am just happy to be part of such a great group of guys and a program that really backs us… Everyone buys in.”

And now, Dolan is focused on helping his team win a national title in his last game playing for Life University, saying, “Winning a National Championship has been my goal since I got here.  I just hope to leave it all out there.”