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Embattled Eagle Todd Clever and NFL veteran Victor So’oto will draw a lot of attention at Elite City 7s this weekend in suburban Philadelphia. So’oto is making his rugby debut with the Utah Olympic Development Academy, and Clever has confirmed he'll suit up, presumably with San Diego.
For Clever, who was removed from the captaincy in the spring and released from the 15s team during the Pacific Nations Cup in July, this might be the start of a 7s comeback in an effort to be considered for the Olympic team.
Clever has never played for Eagles head man Mike Friday, though they’ve certainly got mutual acquaintances in the game and Clever was playing on the circuit at the same time Friday was coaching across the pond.
“I hear such good things about Todd from a cultural perspective as a leader, as a role model, and if he can assist and illustrate and share the learnings he’s had from traveling the world and playing rugby and make our athletes better professionals and assist in their development, then brilliant,” Friday told Rugby Today back in January, before Clever’s descent in the 15s setup.
“If he wants our assistance and he thinks he can add value to us, then of course, the door’s never closed to anyone who’s a quality rugby players and eligible for the USA.
“Back when I coached England Todd was up and coming on the 7s circuit. I’ve watched the way that he made the transformation and moved to South Africa to play and Japan, and you have to be a good player to equip yourself in those types of environments, and you see the way he wears the US Eagles shirt with passions, he just looks like a good bloke, and I hear good things about his behaviors and the way he goes about his business on and off the pitch, which I think is fantastic. He’s a no-nonsense bloke.”
Friday will be on hand at Elite City this weekend, and it seems reasonable to expect he and Clever will have a chat at some point. Also looking to catch Friday’s attention is So’oto. A former BYU gridiron standout, So’oto was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent three seasons in the NFL with a handful of teams.
Former Eagle scrumhalf and current BYU assistant coach Kimball Kjar reached out to the 6-3, 260-pound former defensive lineman via Twitter and got him into the fold with the Utah ODA.
“I want to put on a show, and I want to go to the Olympics. As a football player, you never had that avenue. As a basketball player, as a track athlete, as a volleyball player, you’ve always had that,” So’oto said on a talk radio show (video embedded below. Skip to the 6:30 mark to watch the rugby discussion).
“My experience here playing tight end, playing fullback, playing defensive end, playing linebacker, kind of just puts me into this, hopefully, great rugby players, because you handle the ball, you handle the guy, you chase him.”
So’oto is a massive unit, and there’s not a lot of time to learn the game from whole cloth before Rio, but he says he believed he can make the Olympic team.
“I do or else I wouldn’t be on it,” he said. “I feel like the coaching that Kimball’s been able to teach me and the ceiling he sees for me, why not?”
Elite City 7s will be broadcast live by USA Rugby.