Trading cover-two schemes for a five-point try

Sometimes you see something and it's such a no-brainer. Maybe that's why, you know, the smart ones really do go to those Ivy League schools.

Miles Craigwell, who will turn 25 in March, played football for Brown. He was a solid football player, a linebacker, good enough after graduation to legitimately chase the NFL dream. It didn't work out. No shame. A lot of big, fast guys don't make it.

Miles Craigwell, though, is big, fast and smart. Back home, he happened to be watching a rugby sevens match on television. Talk about -- and here's where it pays to know the kind of words they like you to know at schools like Brown -- serendipity.

This weekend, the HSBC Sevens World Series rugby tour lands in Las Vegas, its sole American stop on a global tour that already has been to Dubai, South Africa and New Zealand and will go on to Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland.  The U.S. team includes one Miles Craigwell.

He said, "Rugby -- it's 14 minutes straight at 100 percent. It's like doing the two-minute drill in football, no-huddle, for 14 minutes straight."

Craigwell saw that rugby broadcast last June. He picked up a rugby ball for the first time last July. Now he's on the U.S. national sevens team. It's too much to expect he'd be the featured act this weekend in Vegas, and odds are he won't be.

Even so, he may well be the most interesting guy on the American side, whether he plays big minutes or not.


Because he's a smart guy, and he's on to something that a lot of other football players doubtlessly are going to be checking out in the coming months and years.

How many football players, really, are going to make it in the NFL?

What career opportunities await those who wash out?

For all of them, which of these sounds more appealing:

Playing for the likes of the Spokane Shock, San Jose SaberCats or Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League, or traveling the world and maybe playing for your country in the Olympics? Or at least giving that second option a try?

Hmm. Rugby sevens is going to be in the Olympics come the Rio Games of 2016. That's Rio de Janeiro. The "Iowa Barnstormers" play in Des Moines.

In the United States, football is huge. But rugby could be the next big thing. And rugby is fun. The rugby scene deliberately includes party time. (Check out the background in the photo above from last weekend: "NZ Beer Pong Assoc.")

In part, that's why the tour's American stop was moved to Vegas. It's said, you know, that Vegas can be a fun place to party.

This is the weekend after the Super Bowl, of course: "Our message to Americans," said Mike Miller, secretary general of the International Rugby Board, "is if you like football you probably will like rugby. Give it a try."

Like Miles Craigwell.

"When I saw the sevens, I was like, wow, the athleticism -- that is definitely something I could do."

By the way, there's an incredibly deep pool of rugby-type talent out there that's now playing football in the United States. How is the U.S. sevens team doing this year?

A look at the Series standings heading into the Vegas weekend shows England and New Zealand tied for first; Samoa in third, Fiji in fourth, South Africa fifth, Australia sixth, Argentina and Wales tied for seventh, the United States ninth and Kenya and Scotland tied for tenth.

The standings further show England and New Zealand with 64 points. The Americans have six. Just checking: When was the last time the Americans stood behind Samoa, Fiji and Wales in anything?

Could an infusion of some bad-ass linebacking and Cover Two-type talent maybe go far in addressing that kind of thing?

Is Al Caravelli, the U.S. sevens coach, a forward-thinker?

On the official USA Rugby website, Caravelli gives his description of his ideal sevens player: "physical, big and yappy." Does that description match, say, any football players?

When the sevens tour landed in Dubai as the tour got underway in December, Caravelli told a newspaper there, referring to Craigwell, "When we talked about the future and rugby being in the Olympics, that attracted [him] immensely. He thought to himself, 'I could stay in the United States and play on a domestic stage, or maybe go and play on the world stage. That is more appealing to me right now.'

"We have thrown him into the deep end. He is very powerful and his defensive ability is scary.

"He hits so hard, he is very explosive."

One final thought: If it turns out there really is an NFL labor action in the coming months, aren't there going to be a lot of football players looking for something to do?

"I was eating at a diner, the sevens were on TV," Miles Craigwell said. " I dropped the fork and I said, 'What is this sport?' "

A whole bunch of football players may well be asking that very same question. And soon.