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Zac Mizell is one of a handful of current college players selected to the ARC squad. For him and Arkansas State teammate Dean Gericke, also selected, finagling two-and-a-half weeks away from class took some luck.
“Our teachers are actually really cool about it,” said Mizell. “They’re letting me submit my work online so I can still go.”
This time last year, few college rugby onlookers even knew who Mizell was, but a 7s season and a two-try performance in the DI-A final against BYU later, he’s getting his shot to impress the Eagle coaching staff, and it’s an opportunity that’s snuck up on him.
“I didn’t get to play that much in the All Americans because I had a concussion for the first game, so I didn’t get to show much there,” said Mizell. “I was actually surprised that they selected me, but I’m really excited to get to go play international rugby, because it’s a level that I’ve never been at before. It’s something I can learn from.”
24, the Keller, Texas native did the last few years of his rugby career a little backwards. Ages 18-20, after playing high school ball and spending some time in New Zealand, Mizell played flyhalf for the Dallas Harlequins in the Super League before following his younger, not littler, brother to Jonesboro, Ark. (Jake plays prop for the Red Wolves.)
When Zac arrived at Arkansas State, the team already had a flyhalf, Pat Sullivan. So to get his best 15 players on the field at the same time, ASU coach Matt Huckaby moved the very slightly built Mizell to center and left the 6-4, big-bodied Sullivan at flyhalf. Mizell is listed as a center going into the ARC.
“The lifting program is the reason that I stayed at center, because I gained a lot of weight so I could actually physically play the position,” said Mizell.
“I’ll play wherever they put me. If they think I’m the best fit at flyhalf, I’d like to have a go there. I’m confident in that position, but I’d like to get on the field as much as I can, so wherever coach Tolkin sees fit to put me, I’m happy with it.”
At Arkansas State, Mizell kicks a fair amount from the centers. Naturally, it’s one of the former flyhalf’s favorite aspects of the game.
“I actually didn’t get a chance to do it with the All Americans that much just because of the style we were playing,” Mizell said of kicking, “but I think that’s definitely something I could really progress with and get good at and one of the things I feel like I can bring to the table at 13, which is one of the reasons I don’t mind staying out there instead of moving into flyhalf.”
Gericke, who plays in the centers with Mizell at ASU, is going into the ARC as a wing, and Mizell is happy to share the experience with his teammate.
“I’ve played next to him ever since I’ve been at Arkansas State,” said Mizell. “He’s truly a guy that I know well and play well with, so I think it’ll actually help me in this experience a lot.”
Mizell is in his last season of college eligibility and will likely graduate next summer, at which time, he fancies perhaps going overseas like he did after graduating high school. But if he continues to impress, Tolkin, or maybe even Eagles 7s coach Alex Magleby, could try to keep him in the system domestically.