The News Tribune
Published: February 4th, 2007 01:00 AM
Simi Fili is a scary sight in football pads, a behemoth presence from Cottonwood High School near Salt Lake City.
Imagine facing one of the nation’s top NCAA Division I defensive tackle recruits on a rugby field with no protection.
It is a perilous proposition in any sport.
Fili, the state of Utah’s No. 1 recruit at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, gave an oral commitment to play for the Oregon Ducks next season.
“He’s an unbelievably strong kid, big and thick,” Cottonwood coach Tom Jones said. “He’s been 300 pounds since his ninth grade season.”
Fili joined the successful Highland Rugby Team, a club team that draws much of the local high school talent, four years ago. The program has won numerous national titles.
“I wanted to find extra activities that would help me be better in football,” Fili said.
He plays forward in rugby. His primary duty is to feed the quicker players the ball on the outside.
But when action returns to the middle of the field, as in a dog-pile scrum, look out for Fili, who has been known to grab the ball and take off, dragging defenders with him.
“Give him a running start,” Jones said, “and it would be pretty unbelievable to see somebody tackle him.”
Or, if the action slows, Fili is always looking to hit somebody.
“Some guy saw me coming at him one time,” Fili said, “and yelled, ‘Oh, shoot!’”
Rugby is as much a technical sport as it is a physical test. Fili said he has become a better tackler on both accounts.
“I’m quicker with my technique,” Fili said. “With rugby, you have no pads, so when you have pads on for football, you aren’t scared to hit people at all.”
Few recruits are stronger than Fili. His maximum bench press is 385 pounds. His top squat mark is 700. Last year at a football combine, he put up 73 bench-press repetitions of 185.
In April, Fili will attempt to break the state power-lifting mark of 425 pounds. He is hoping to get near 500.
Fili said Oregon coaches will permit him to continue rugby in the spring, and in college.