TROY — Growing up playing football most of his life, Dallas Shamblin was for more likely to have been dreaming of one day playing in New England, not New Zealand.
Somewhere along the line, however, those dreams changed for the 2016 Troy High School graduate and — thanks in large part to a chance he took and the vagaries of life — Shamblin may one day find himself in New Zealand playing rugby, not football. Later this year, Shamblin — who was a freshman on the Thomas More College ruby team this past year — will leave for New Zealand for a tryout with The Crusaders, one of the most successful professional rugby programs in the southern hemisphere.
“It’s pretty crazy — it feels pretty surreal,” Shamblin said. “I never dreamed anything like this would ever happened. I had always wanted to be a professional football player when I was a little kid. I never would have dreamed something like this would ever happen to me.”
All of that would change, however, when Shamblin discovered the Miami County Bombers, a fledgling rugby club team that has players from schools across the northern Miami Valley on its roster.
“They came into the school and hung up a bunch of posters,” Shamblin said. “My freshman year, I went out and watched a practice, but decided it wasn’t for me then. By my junior year, I decided I wanted to try it. I really had a lot of fun.”
Shamblin would continue playing football for Troy High School in the fall — he started at center and played on the defensive line his final two years at Troy — and rugby in the spring. As a 5-foot-9, 220-pound lineman, however, Shamblin realized his future in football was limited by his stature. That’s when he began giving serious consideration to playing rugby in college.
“I got lucky and got recruited by John Fox, who is the head recruiter at Thomas More,” said Shamnblin, who had a successful freshman campaign for the Saints. “I think I did pretty well — I think I did extremely well, actually. I was one of the top hookers in our league and division.”
Shamblin did so well, in fact, that he caught they eye of a scout from The Crusaders, who were putting on a joint rugby camp between Thomas More and Xavier University. The Crusaders play in the Super Rugby league, the top professional men’s rugby union in the Southern Hemisphere and Japan. They are the top team in Super Rugby history, having captured seven titles.
Shamblin was offered a tryout coming out of the camp. While he’s not certain of an exact date, he does know he’ll travel to New Zealand and could spend up to a month working with the team.
“I had always kind of hoped I could at least play in college, but I never thought I might have a chance to one day play professionally,” he said. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
Reach David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong