Thursday, April 19, 2012

Roy Helu, His Father, And Rugby

If you ask a football player what pro his game most resembles, you sometimes get some pretty outlandish answers. A guy named Quinn Porter spent about thirty seconds on the Redskins practice squad, but he assured me that, comparison-wise, “I’m like an Emmitt-slash-Jim. I could be a Barry, or a Reggie.” (That would be Emmitt Smith, Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and Reggie Bush, I presumed at the time.)

But when Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro asked newly-drafted Redskins running back Roy Helu the comparison question on ESPN980 this afternoon, they got an answer I had never heard before.

“No one in particular,” Helu said. “As a youngster, I watched film on my dad — everyone always praised my dad for being a very good rugby player. He played on the U.S. national team and was the captain for that squad, and I really admired him and his running style.”

That sounded like a fascinating story, and it turns out that it is — fascinating enough, at least, for David Ubben to have written it for Some excerpts….

There are six Helu children, but until Roy Jr. became the fourth, Roy Sr. was a father to all girls. A rugby player himself, Helu Sr. took every opportunity to nurture the athletic talent obvious in his son.

Most babies are beginning to walk by their first birthday. Roy Jr. was running and dancing at his first birthday party. Don’t worry, there’s video of it somewhere. At eight, a Pop Warner coach told the Helus that Roy Jr.’s speed was an uncoachable gift.

Father and son would run the hills around the family’s Bay Area home in hopes that he’d only get faster. Helu Sr. is no football coach, but he knows how to run with a ball in his hand.

“I help him with vision and cutting,” he says.

And, later in the piece:

Some lessons from the rugby pitch don’t get lost in translation.

“The easiest running path is when you see the hole, hit it and hit it hard,” Helu Sr. told his son.

It’s a fascinating profile of a father-son relationship, and an interesting way to learn about football. Just in case you’re concerned, though, Helu did offer a more traditional follow-up answer to Loverro and Sheehan:

“In college,” he said, “I watched film on Darren McFadden my freshman year and sophomore year, of the way he ran and got north and south and didn’t make as much moves if he was between the tackles.”

Not as interesting as the rugby thing, but it still sounds pretty good to me.

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