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Dartmouth’s Nate Brakeley scored a try in the All American game at Brophy Field in Hanover, NH Saturday. Granted, the 2012 Dartmouth grad was wearing the light blue of Cambridge University and not the navy and red of the All Americans.
Brakeley, a former All American, studied at Cambridge upon graduating from Dartmouth and returned to the States last September. He’s been playing with the New York Athletic Club and working with a software company. Cambridge called him up to see if he wanted to rejoin his old team for their tour of the States, playing against another one of his old teams at the home ground of his oldest team, and he jumped at the chance.
“I didn’t expect to be back in a Cambridge jersey, and certainly not at Dartmouth, so it was a little bit surreal,” said the lock. “Kind of the two places that I enjoyed most playing rugby in my life came together, and so it was a pretty special day out, and I couldn’t have had more fun.”
While Brakeley’s side lost 27-15, he enjoyed taking in the game from a different perspective. He was once an All American hoping to impress his coaches and improve his chances at becoming an Eagle someday. Madison Hughes, Brakeley’s teammate at Dartmouth, and Shaun Potgieter, with whom Brakeley played on the All Americans, both started in the contest.
“It’s interesting to see that from the other side of things,” he said. “It’s a lot of very athletic kids, very skilled rugby players, but I think Cambridge stuck it to them with a little more cohesiveness, just being a team, so it was two kind of different types of teams playing against each other, but it ended up being a pretty good game.”
Brakeley said the Cambridge side selected for the tour was very strong.
“I was one of probably seven or eight guys that came back just for the tour, and it was a pretty skilled group of guys they pulled back for this. So pretty much the best players from when I played at Cambridge were all back for this tour.”
A lot of Dartmouth grads, like so many Army, Air Force and Navy players, leave rugby at college. They go on to higher callings, like service for the military guys, or becoming successful Ivy League alums. Brakeley and Derek Fish, who played with the Chicago team at the Elite City 7s earlier this month, are the only two members of the 2012 Dartmouth class, winners of two CRC titles, still playing high-level rugby. And Brakeley, like he was as an All American, is still hoping to catch the eye of the senior National Team coaching staff.
“That’s always on the radar. I don’t focus too much on it. I think it’s a little healthier to just keep playing rugby and enjoying myself, but certainly I’d love to do that at some point,” said Brakeley of becoming an Eagle.
“It’s a sacrifice you make. You end up, because of the way the job is today, you do job and rugby and that’s about it. I like rugby enough, and it’s been a most important part of my life, that I didn’t want to drop it, so I kept playing.”