Jimmerson has gone from playing football for the green and white to potentially playing rugby for the red, white and blue! Photo courtesy of Jimmerson.

 

It wasn’t that long ago that A.J. Jimmerson strapped on his Spartan gear and ran out of the tunnel at Spartan Stadium.  While his career had its ups and downs, he remained a great guy and worked hard never achieving the status as a fixture in the Spartan backfield. Most student athletes are finished playing competitive sports after college.  Fortunately for A.J., he was able to find a new avenue for his athletic talents and to utilize his God given abilities.  Rugby may not be as popular as football here in America, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less demanding.  Some positions, like the wing, can run up to two miles during the course of a game.  Now that A.J. Jimmerson has gotten up to speed on the rules and what is expected of him, he has set a new goal.  Jimmerson’s goal is a spot on the national rugby team, an aggressive goal for a former college tailback.  Spartan Nation recently caught up with their old friend to talk about the transition from football to rugby.

A.J. had to get his body ready for a different style of conditioning that the sport demands.  He’s playing the wing position so he can still utilize some of the football background when he’s running the ball.  That position is like a wide receiver/running back that utilizes his abilities to act like he did toting the rock in football.  A close friend of Jimmerson got him into the sport when he wasn’t drafted to the NFL.  After this summer he hopes to be on the USA team.  Currently, he plays in Minnesota for a squad called the YoungBloodz.  A.J. is looking to play for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics when the sport is officially brought back to the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He likes his chances at making the Olympic team.  He likes the teamwork concept and the fact that it’s a different world than football.  His best explanation of the sport is that it’s a mix of football and soccer; with the team aspect and hitting of football, but with constant running like in soccer.  Some matches can have 16 people on the field at the same time (eight on each side), but when the Olympics come around, they will play with seven on the field for each squad.  That makes the game more up tempo.    His athletic ability and sport background allowed him to learn quickly.  The two-a-day practices also helped him out (I bet Jimmerson had flashbacks to high school and college football with that practice schedule).  Outside of the USA, rugby is a pretty big sport.  He will be headed to New Zealand this winter to play.  While there, he will be playing in the professional league.  His mother, Crystal, is really excited about the aspects of him still playing sports.  Rugby has been a blessing for A.J.   One of the major influences on A.J. has been his new coach.  Coach Rob Holder took him under his wing and helped A.J. get acclimated to the sport.  At one point, Holder was the coach of the national team.

Many of us in the Spartan Nation have fond memories of A.J. Jimmerson.  Jimmerson was never  a star that put up gaudy statitics, but he always did what was asked.  He understood the “team first” concept and was a true Spartan.  Even though he has left Michigan State and moved on to the next aspect of his life, he still loves the Spartan Nation.  I’m sure I speak for many of us when we say that our hopes for his future in this new avenue of athletic competition come with more peaks than valleys and a wish for great success.  It’s only a few years from now (August 5, 2016) that the Rio games will begin.  With a few years of professional competition under his belt, the eyes of the Spartan Nation will turn toward the rugby pitch and the dreams of bringing home that gold medal.  We’re pulling for you, A.J.!  Keep doing what you do and make us proud!