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Ed Mills is one of a few names on the ARC roster most readers, even the most observant, might not be familiar with. That’s understandable, given that he’s been in the United States for a few years and mostly toiled in obscurity playing social rugby.
Mills, 28, was a teammate of John Quill’s at Dolphin in the All Ireland League. He played at Edinburgh University and in the Munster age-grade system, and was for a time on the track that leads to an Irish cap. He came Stateside to go to grad school at the University of Kansas, and he played for the local men’s social side, which didn’t compete in DI, DII or DIII. Last season Mills moved to Kansas City, where he works as an architect, and began playing with the Kansas City Blues.
He wasn’t trying to get back into the high performance world, but when his phone rang, he was pleasantly surprised.
“I thought I said goodbye to those days when I left Scotland. Just playing for fun now, but I got a phone call from the manager, and it’s kind of hard to say no,” said Mills. “While you’ve still got a little blood running through your veins, it’s hard to say no, and if work was OK with it, I was going to go for it.
“It’s definitely exciting to be back in the kind of professional realm, back where, every single player, that’s what they do. It’s good to get that setup again. I kind of waved goodbye to it to just concentrate on my career, but said to my company is it OK if I go? They said don’t even ask, just do it.”
Mills is not the biggest guy, maybe a couple of inches shy of 6-feet. He’s not overly wide or bulky, but he is a very elusive runner, who manages to shake would-be tacklers without losing much straight-ahead speed. He has a very capable boot and makes decisions quickly. Mills terrorized some lower-level teams with his skills while playing socially, and he’s been turning the heads of opponents since stepping up to DI with the Blues.
Mills plays mostly outside center and fullback for the Blues, but most of his career has been spent at wing.
“That’s where I played my whole life back through all the age grade stuff and everything in Ireland. I played wing and then it was fullback,” said Mills. “Wing is probably my preferred position. That seems to be where they keep looking at me with the Eagles. I’ll go wherever, though. If they need somebody bringing on water, I’ll be happy enough doing that.”
Mills put the dream of earning an international cap on the back burner years ago, but now that a cap is as close as a really good performance at the ARC away, he’s getting excited about the prospects again.
“It would be unbelievable. It’s the highest honor you can get. It’s still at the point where you’d almost have to pinch yourself if you did get that,” said Mills. “It’s kind of funny. I still have to pinch myself that it’s the USA, not Ireland, but such is the world in rugby…It’s a chance to play international, and I’ll take any opportunity I get.”