Within the inner circles of the West Houston Lions Rugby organization, the air is electric with excitement, and there’s good reason to be. Not only because a new dawn of American Rugby has broken thanks to the emergence and success of Major League Rugby’s inaugural season, but because the Lions may have within their grasp a fresh ‘face of the franchise’, as they say in football, to kick off the life of their team. His name: Irving Carcamo.
Now, I know the Houston sports faithful have been teased with this very same idea before in the form of David Carr, a former number one overall pick of the NFL’s Houston Texans. Carr, in his rookie season, was expected to lead a brand new franchise with a fledgling offensive line to the glory that was never quite achieved by Warren Moon’s Oilers (can you tell I might be a rugby AND a football nerd?). Needless to say, he fell short of that expectation.
However, the pressure that seemed to drag down Carr probably won’t be as heavy on young Irving as he begins his career here in the Bayou City area of Houston. For starters, as an amateur D1-club, his play with the Lions won’t be affecting any chances the SaberCats may have at the America’s Championship Shield next year, no matter how well, or poorly, he may play. As long as you don’t potentially cost a city its shot at the title, you can remain in their good graces.
Second, Carr’s draft stock skyrocketed his final year in college because he was able to pick apart subpar defenses at Fresno State, coupled with an impressive combine showing. Carcamo, meanwhile, is heading to Eastern Europe with the USA Rugby South Panthers, a Regional Select-Side of D2/D3 players from the southern regions of the United States, where he will take on the National teams of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria. Sounds a bit more competitive than San Diego State’s secondary, am I right?
If all goes well, the Lions, and eventually the SaberCats, will have themselves a bonafide star on the field with the versatility to dominate both offensively and defensively. In the meantime, having had some experience talking with and interviewing rugby players (shout out Diego, Peter Tibs, Vince, Ryan, and Hanco) I caught up with him while he was travelling across the pond to get the goods on where his head’s at now, and more importantly, where it came from. Read on:
Liam: What was the first instance of exposure to rugby that you had in your life?
Irving: Sophomore year in high school was the first time I went to rugby practice. My gym teacher started a team and that’s when I met my first Samoan! We ended up being good friends and I just stuck with it. Fell in love and haven’t turned back.
Liam: How important is family in your life?
Irving: Family plays a huge role in my life. The biggest being my four nephews, ranging from a year and a half to twelve years old. Hoping to mold them into future rugby players one day!
Liam: What’s the most difficult part of life you need to balance along with being a rugby player?
Irving: One of the biggest are occasions is when my friends or family misunderstand how heavily committed I am to this sport. Being gone every other weekend and having to miss birthdays or some kind of event going on back home. They always ask me why I choose to do this, especially since I don’t get paid to!! My only response is “For the love of the game!!”
Liam: What kind of lessons did you learn playing in Charlotte that have helped you grow as a player and person?
Irving: Playing for Charlotte definitely helped in both aspects. Bringing in Coach Brenden Keane last year was a big step for the club, and I definitely have been learning a lot from him. As a person, some people that have known me for a while say I’ve changed quite a bit! Thankfully, for my teammates and coaches, I’ve grown into a better and more mature person.
Liam: When we spoke earlier, you mentioned you were in route on traveling to Europe (for the Panthers upcoming tour against Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria) with former Charlotte and now current Panther teammate Amro Guda (NOLA Gold). What does it mean to have a connection like that with a fellow hometown guy where you already have a degree of chemistry?
Irving: One of my favorite things about playing on this team is making life long memories while traveling around the world with teammates. And what better person to do it with than one of my best friends! We have a very strong connection, and help each other stay honest and push each other to be the best players we can be. People confuse us all the time, and call me by his name and him by mine. So being able to share this experience with him is pretty awesome.
Liam: What do you think is going to be the most educational aspect of a European tour?
Irving: Being in rugby mode 100% of the time while out here. Modeling that professional environment where I just get to focus on rugby and rugby only. Also being able to compare my skills and talent with the rugby out there will help me better understand myself as a player.
Liam: What are you most excited about in regards to working with Coach Rene Daniel as you tour Europe?
Irving: I have enjoyed working with Coach Rene on previous tours, but I’m really looking forward to experiencing an extended tour with him. Coach and the rest of the staff are real organized, and from the information I have gathered from my teammate Amro, the program is run similarly to the MLR. We’ve definitely learned a lot about each other since I’ve been with the program for quite some time now. So just looking to enjoy the experience out here with him and the rest of the South squad.
Liam: What initially attracted you to the West Houston Lions?
Irving: I was raised an hour north of Houston in a small town, so picking Houston kind of came easy to me. As far as picking the team, one of their players I knew, Irving Cruz (who happens to have the same name as me haha), had messaged me about the team and helped answer any questions I had and made me feel like I’d fit in great. They’re moving to D1 this season, so I’d be playing in a higher division than in Charlotte, and hopefully that will help me move onto the next step of making an MLR team.
Liam: What kind of positive effect do you think you’ll have on the pitch with the Lions?
Irving: Hoping to bring some aggressive ball running. I’m a hard runner and can make smart decisions. So I’m just looking to break the gain line and put the boys on for some tries.
Liam: If you could do one thing to improve the lives of the people in the Houston-community, what would it be?
Irving: I know Houston has a strong community, especially after Hurricane Harvey. But if I could improve something, it would be to help the Hispanic-community. I always have love for my people, and with the whole splitting of families and people getting deported, they need all the help and support we can give them.
Liam: What’s your favorite food to eat after a training session?
Irving: Harris Teeter subs!
Editor’s note: Harris Teeter is to the Carolinas what H.E.B. is to Texas.
Liam: Would you rather be a Jedi or a Wizard?
Irving: So between being in Star Wars or in Hogwarts... I think I’d have to choose my man Harry Potter! I’d much rather be on land than on a ship getting shot down lol. So it would have to be a Wizard for me!
Liam “Poach” Madigan-Fried is a recent graduate of Lyndon University in Northern Vermont where he played fullback for the rugby club and was the managing editor of penguintundrasports.com. His love of writing about rugby and the MLR have led him to make Houston his home very soon. The West Houston Lions and Houston SaberCats families consider themselves very fortunate to have such a journalistic talent in their midst.