DENVER, Colo. – Veteran USA center Paul Emerick announced his retirement from rugby today. Emerick, whose international career began a decade ago, earned 53 caps for the USA and played in three Rugby World Cups. He was also part of the USA Eagles Sevens team at 17 World Series tournaments and played professionally in England, Italy, Northern Ireland and Wales over eight seasons.
It is a reluctant retirement for the 33-year-old after he was sidelined by an ankle injury in November last year: “No one wants to retire because of injury,” Emerick said, "but as we get older our bodies start to defy our minds.
“I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of playing rugby. Hopefully I’ll be remembered as a guy who always played his guts out for his team.”
The center/wing’s first exposure to the sport was at the University of Northern Iowa in 1999 and representative honors quickly followed. Emerick toured with the Collegiate All-Americans in 2001 then began his long service to the USA’s national team in 2003. His playing career also ended with the Eagles -- his ankle injury came in a USA victory over Romania last November.
Today Emerick’s coaches in those bookend national team appearances both lauded his contribution. USA coach Mike Tolkin said the center had been popular with Eagles fans because he had “always hustled, tackled hard, run hard, and been a massive impact player for the Eagles. He has worn the Eagle jersey with pride on every occasion and made his country proud. I am privileged to have been a small part of it.”
Former USA coach Tom Billups who was the first to cap the then 23-year-old Emerick said: “Paul’s international and professional career is one of American rugby’s success stories. His play for the United States was full of pride and purpose. He has become an aspirational figure within the rugby community and I could not be more proud of his career.”
Emerick’s 53 appearances for the USA put him 4th on the all-time appearances list for the Eagles, and his 17 tries for the team is second all-time behind only the legendary Vaea Anitoni (26 tries).
Now based in Denver, CO., Emerick said his first and his final World Cup appearances were among career highlights. Playing against Fiji in 2003 was an eye-opener as a young player, he said, while in 2011, “our last match was against Italy and I felt I had one of my best games as an Eagle.” Also a regular with the USA Eagle Sevens team, Emerick savors being part of the squad that reached the final of the Adelaide World Series event in 2010.
“I’ve had plenty of ups and downs professionally, but rugby has always been fun and I’ll always be grateful that I had the chance to play one of the most dynamic sports in existence.”