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Some years, the choice for Breakout Performer of the Year is an easy one; a player comes out of complete obscurity (Maka Unufe, Mike Te’o) and ends up on the national team and no on else comes close.
This year, there were several breakout performances at the highest level. Among our honorable mentions this year: Tai Tuisamoa was just toiling away at OMBAC when USA Head Coach Mike Tolkin decided to give him at shot with the USA Selects; Tuisamoa ended up getting capped for the first time. Tim Maupin wasn’t really thought of as an Eagle, and then bumped more established players off the field. Nick Wallace took his chance, and Danny Barrett also had a strong year. Titi Lamositele followed the Unufe/Te'o mold as a young player who made the senior ranks, but in the end he is also an honorable mention.
RUGBYMag.com’s Breakout Player of the Year for 2013 is Cam Dolan. He gets this award because a year ago he was in complete limbo. He was coming back from an injury and there were real questions about whether he could physically make the next step. But of the summer he worked his way back into Eagle contention. In the ARC, Dolan took charge of the team, and more dominant, and a better leader, and helped the USA team to second place.
He followed that up with a Man of the Match performance against the Maori All Blacks, and almost out of nowhere claimed the starting No.8 job for his own.
Athletic, versatile, excellent in the air, and superb at rescuing iffy ball from the back of a scrum, Dolan ends 2013 not as a question-mark, but as an exclamation mark – a sure thing we can pencil in as an Eagle we can depend on.