St. Ignatius' May prefers rugby to football

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St. Ignatius' May prefers rugby to football

Malcolm May doesn't want to play college football.

St. Ignatius' 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior running backdefensive end compiled an impressive resume this season. He rushed for 950 yards and scored 11 touchdowns for a 3-6 team and was designated as the Offensive Player of the Year in the Catholic League's Red Division.

"I coached Renaldo Wynn, who went from De La Salle to Notre Dame and was a first-round draft choice and played in the NFL for 14 years, and Reggie Hayward, who played at Thornridge and played in the NFL for 10 years. I'd put May in the same class," said St. Ignatius coach Pat Jennings.

But the 16-year-old doesn't want to play another football game.

"He begged me not to put his name out or send out film to college recruiters," Jennings said. "I took him off the board."

May is a rugby player.

His heroes are Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Quade Cooper, not Peyton Manning or Brian Urlacher or Tom Brady.

Who are those guys?

They are rugby players, maybe the best in the world. Carter and McCaw play for the All-Blacks in New Zealand. Cooper, May's personal favorite, plays for the Australian Wallabies.

A cousin of former college All-America lineman and NFL star and current ESPN football analyst Mark May, he is a starter on the Under-19 USA rugby team. Last summer, he played with the Under-17 USA team in England. He hopes to make tours in England and South America next spring and summer. His goals are to play in the World Cup in 2015 and the Olympics in 2016.

"At first, it is frustrating because no one understands the sport," May said. "But as long as I enjoy it, I don't care what others feel or that they think football is more important.

"I feel if you are watching football, it is more entertaining. I can't explain why rugby is more fun to play. It is a game that doesn't stop. It has a flow that football doesn't have. It is a faster game than soccer. You have to think more. In football, coaches call plays. In rugby, it's 15 kids thinking on their own."

Come to think of it, May said, most people don't know that there are 15 players to a side in rugby or what you can do, what you can't do, what the penalties are, the illegal hits. To most folks in the United States, rugby is as foreign as cricket.

"I tell them, there is more contact and hitting in rugby than football. Either you get hit or you score. There is excitement all the time," May said. "A rugby player doesn't have to be big. He has to have endurance, high resolve, big legs, long arms and broad shoulders. As long as you aren't afraid to tackle, you can play the game."

Truth be told, May didn't know anything about rugby and didn't even start playing the game until his freshman year at St. Ignatius. "I liked football. But I didn't plan to play football in high school. I didn't think I was that good. I wanted to focus on my schoolwork," he said.

May grew up on Chicago's South Side, at 85th and Kedzie, in the Evergreen Park community. He was an offensive lineman and defensive end for the Hayes Park Blitz youth football program. His mother convinced him to play football in high school. He chose St. Ignatius over St. Rita, Brother Rice and Whitney Young, primarily because his mother attended the academically inclined school. He has a 3.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and scored 26 on his ACT.

After his freshman year of football, he said he got bored. A friend suggested he should try out for rugby. He went to a practice session. "I was intrigued from then on," he said.

"Rugby is more of a culture than football is, more of a team sport. At first, I liked it because I could carry the ball. I didn't touch the ball in football until I was converted from a lineman to running back as a senior. There is a different feel to rugby. It is more relaxed but just as intense."

After suffering a broken wrist and playing only three games as a freshman, May's rugby career experienced a meteoric rise. As a sophomore, he tried out for the state team and made it. As a junior, he was invited to the USA camp and made the 75-man roster. He played in England on the Under-17 and Under-19 USA squads. His immediate goal? To stay in the USA rugby system.

It isn't easy to be a world-class rugby player when nobody in your neighborhood plays rugby. To continue to improve and keep his competitive edge, May spends a lot of time on his own, working out in a weight room and running every day.

"You've got to take a lot of mental reps and make the most of the practices you have," said May, who is considering Penn State, Western Michigan and Davenport College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Class 1-AA school to further his rugby education.

He isn't bored any longer.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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USA Today Sports Images

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse, NC State kickoff still TBD

ESPN selected Notre Dame's road game at North Carolina State for a six-day option, meaning we won't know what time that contest will kick off until after Oct. 1's games. 

The other two ACC games selected as part of the six-day option are Virginia Tech at North Carolina and Florida State at Miami. Both FSU (No. 12) and Miami (No. 14) are ranked in the latest AP top 25, while Virginia Tech and North Carolina both received votes in the poll. Notre Dame and NC State did not receive any votes in this week's AP poll. 

Notre Dame's game against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium this Saturday will be broadcast by ESPN, the ACC also announced, and will kick off at noon E.T.