(CBS Local)– Mike St. Claire is not your typical professional athlete.
The Stony Brook University alum plays professional rugby for Rugby United New York and also works full-time as a recruiter at Facebook. Through sports and his business career, St. Claire has had the opportunity to interact with people from all around the world.
“When you first start playing rugby, you don’t really know how big of a world it really is,” said St. Claire in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Now I’m at Facebook and it’s a huge company, so it’s been very different. I’m definitely grateful for it. I knew I had to set myself up for a career outside of rugby in case anything happens.”
St. Claire was a basketball player before making the jump to rugby at Stony Brook University. Rugby United New York plays its home matches at MCU Park in Brooklyn and St. Claire has loved every part of the experience so far.
“Honestly, the experience has been amazing,” said St. Claire. “When you’re younger and you play sports, everyone wants to go to the league. When that’s the case, you never really know how much it takes to become a professional athlete. The view of Coney Island is so iconic. If you want a great snapshot of New York, you have the roller coaster, the actual theme park, Nathan’s Hot Dogs is right there and you can get some frog legs if you want.”
St. Claire says that he has a mix of teammates who work full-time jobs on top of rugby and people who play for other local clubs. The sport of rugby is becoming more popular in New York and across the country and St. Claire says changes in the game have helped that happen.
“It’s changed in terms of the body types,” said St. Claire. “The game has gotten a lot faster in terms of the pace. It’s not like traditional rugby anymore, which is good. The average time you’re playing from whistle to whistle is 30-36 minutes. I’ll never forget my first tackle, I put all my energy into that tackle and I was exhausted and everyone was still running around.”
Fans can catch Rugby United New York and the rest of the league on CBS Sports Network when the 2020 season begins.