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.