Written by Joe Harvey
Picked second overall in the 2023 Major League Rugby Collegiate Draft by the Houston SaberCats was Max Schumacher.
Joining the Western Conference side from the historic University of California, Berkeley, program, the Rudy Scholz Award finalist will join alumni, Christian Dyer, in Texas.
A regular for Cal across his four years there, Schumacher gained a place in the starting XV as a freshman and was regularly the side’s leading points scorer and would even be co-captain.
Ending their 2023 season in the Western Conference Eliminator, Houston would trade up to get their man.
Sending playmaker, Rob Povey to the Toronto Arrows, the SaberCats would get the Canadians’ first-round pick in return.
“It is an honor to be number two and to have them trade that pick to get higher so they could get me, and secondly, it is exciting,” Schumacher said.
“It is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, and I think it is a great next step for me in my rugby career.
“I am excited to get to work, get down to Houston, and make it home.”
Since being introduced to rugby in his native Sacramento with Land Park Rugby, Schumacher has mapped out his rugby career.
Initially, his dream was to turn out for the Golden Bears, and in his mid-teens, the introduction of MLR to North American rugby gave the playmaker something else to aim for.
“I knew I wanted to go to Cal and play rugby since I first heard about them and went and saw a game,” Schumacher said.
“I must have been playing rugby for two years. I was in fifth grade. That was my dream: to go to Cal and play rugby.
“Then, as I got older and older, rugby was my passion, and I wanted to make it my life and my job professionally.
“For a long time, there was no league in America, and I wondered how I would make that happen. The second they started the league, I was gunning for it.
“I was full go, and I was trying to get into the league. Other goals have come after that, but it has been my goal ever since the league started.”
Schumacher was not the only Cal player selected in this MLR Collegiate Draft. Picked number four overall was Seth Purdey, while Jack Manzo was also picked up in the second round.
They follow in the footsteps of last year’s number one overall pick, Sam Golla, who picked up the Rookie of the Year Award thanks to his performances for the Dallas Jackals and capped off a fine year with his debut for the USA Men’s Eagles in Europe.
“I think number one is coaching,” Schumacher said about how the Golden Bears prepared him for professional rugby.
“Clearly world-class coaching staff from Coach (Tom) Billups and Coach (Jack) Clark. They taught me a lot of rugby lessons, along with how to be a man.
“The second piece would be playing time. I was fortunate enough to slide into a hole in the team. When I was a freshman, the year before Troy Lockyear (New York Ironworkers), there was a hole in the team at full-back position, and I was lucky enough to fill it.
“With that experience on the pitch, just getting minutes every year, all four years, I became a better player.
“Half of it is going to be luck; the other half will be hard work.”
Currently in camp with the USA Men’s High-Performance Academy in North Carolina, Schumacher is testing himself alongside many of the country’s top prospects.
There, for the next two months, Schumacher will also prepare for a debut 2024 season of MLR action and realize a dream that has been in the making for many years.
“Number one thing is that when I get there, I am going to give it my best,” Schumacher said.
“Hopefully, my best gets better every day. When I get out there, I will try to improve as a player, and I think that for the coaching staff down there, that is their goal for me as well.
“I couldn’t be more excited to get down there and be in a professional environment. I would like to say I have experience of that, just due to Berkeley’s program, but I am sure it will be a new world nonetheless.”
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