Written by Joe Harvey
Being the third pick in the 2023 Major League Rugby Collegiate Draft, Marques Fuala’au will live his childhood dream of being a professional athlete with the Dallas Jackals.
From an early age, Fuala’au’s early ambition was to play in the NFL.
Through high school, the Washington native aimed to get a football scholarship, although rugby changed those plans.
Fuala’au is one of three athletes picked from Central Washington University in the fourth annual MLR draft; the Jackals selected the back-row forward.
“The whole weekend, I was barely sleeping,” Fuala’au told MLR. “After I got the phone call, it was a feeling of relief because I knew I was being drafted. A big goal of mine.
“When they called my name at the third pick, the camera didn’t catch it, but for a second, my jaw dropped. My eyes got really big. I just couldn’t believe that moment.
“An unreal feeling. Nothing I have really felt before. An unreal feeling. It is just something I am really grateful and honored to be a part of.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I am very grateful and thankful to the Dallas Jackals.”
As a freshman in high school, Fuala’au was first introduced to rugby when invited by a friend from school to practice with the Rainier Highlanders. Quickly, the 23-year-old fell in love with the game.
But not only that, it had a profound effect on the then-teenager. Describing himself as a “hot head,” the flanker says that sport significantly influenced his formative years.
“I would say I am a completely different person,” Fuala’au said. “I probably wouldn’t have gone to college if it wasn’t for sport, and I wouldn’t be the person that I am.
“It has taught me so much. I would probably still be an angry, little guy, but I am a happy-going guy now.”
Fuala’au’s passion for rugby would only continue to grow as the years went by. As would his ability. Currently, the back-row is with the USA Men’s High-Performance Academy in North Carolina as part of a 10-week camp.
Over time, rugby would even begin to outshine football. In 2018, he and his Highlanders teammates went to the Starfire Sports Complex as the Seattle Seawolves made their professional debut at home against the San Diego Legion – a 39-23 win.
“I got a few scholarship offers (for football), but something in me just switched,” Fuala’au said.
“I was actually at the first MLR game, ever, in Seattle. Our club coach took us, so we all sat there and watched the game and watched a league be born.
“It was just unreal watching it and seeing Seattle’s fans, they are pretty passionate, and how the boys worked professionally was a pretty big deal.
“So, when Central (Washington University) offered me a scholarship to go and play rugby, it was a no-brainer for me, and I knew I was chasing to be an MLR player or be capped by the Eagles.”
Spending his last five years in Ellensburg, Washington, Fuala’au has much to thank that city and CWU for.
His teammates and the local community helped The first-generation college graduate through an unimaginable period of sadness as Fuala’au lost eight significant people in his life over a five-year spell.
Going forward, the 23-year-old is playing with all those people who helped him firmly in mind and flying the flag for CWU as he steps into professional rugby.
“I couldn’t give back to them what they have given me,” Fuala’au said. “They have just been unreal. They have been everything to me.
“Central brought me a whole load of brothers and lifelong friends. I believe Todd Thornley (CWU’s head coach) is the country’s best collegiate coach.
“He holds a real high standard, keeps us accountable, and even going through the combines and stuff, it shows that his coaching and his standards have really put us on a level to be successful, and I am endlessly thankful for that.
“Even when I was searching for a football scholarship, Todd came in and offered me a rugby scholarship and changed my life completely. Changed my family’s life.”
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