You can’t mention USA Rugby Sevens without discussing Perry Baker.
Baker has gone through a unique journey to where his rugby sevens career stands today, as he’s going to go down as one of the best players ever in the team’s program.
But just why is the 36-year-old Baker so well-regarded in the USA rugby community? Let’s dig into it as the grand finale of the 2021-22 Rugby Sevens Series concludes in Los Angeles.
Here are five facts to know about Baker before he takes the field at Dignity Health Sports Park:
He played college football at Fairmont State
Rugby was not Baker’s first sport – it was football. He played for Fairmont State, an NCAA Division II team in West Virginia. He graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 2010, but that field wasn’t his next venture.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed him in 2011
The National Football League was actually Baker’s first field out of college. The Philadelphia Eagles signed him in 2011, but, unfortunately, that journey was cut short. Baker suffered a knee injury that ended his NFL days. He went on to play two seasons with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League in 2012 and 2013.
He made his USA Rugby Sevens debut in 2014
After taking on rugby full-time in 2013 under the Tiger Rugby Academy in Columbus, Ohio, Baker was signed to a full-time deal by the U.S. team to join its residency program in July 2014. He made his first-team debut in the 2014 Gold Coast Sevens in Australia, a tournament in which he scored a hat-trick of tries in one game. That was the start of something special.
He guided the U.S. to its first World Rugby Sevens win on home soil in 2018
After an impressive 2017 campaign, Baker continued his incredible play in the 2018 tournaments. Perhaps his biggest moment was helping the U.S. team win the 2018 USA Sevens on home soil, the first time the country ever achieved the feat. The U.S. went undefeated in group play and beat England, Fiji and Argentina en route to winning the competition, which was held in Las Vegas. Baker led all players with eight tries scored.
Who has the most World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year awards?
You guessed it – it’s Baker.
The World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year started in 2004 as a way to recognize that year’s best athlete in all sevens competitions, primarily the World Sevens Series’ games. Baker took home the award in 2017 and 2018, becoming the first rugby sevens player in history to win it twice. He’s also the only American to have won. The only players who came close were Stephen Tomasin and Folau Niua, who were nominees in 2019.
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