The LA Giltinis have today announced the signing of promising Tongan-born American and Colorado XO prop Ma’ake Muti to help solve a short-term prop problem.
Muti, 23, impressed coaches at a recent try-out and the physical, strong-running forward has been added to the roster on a one-season deal.
It is a huge change of fortunes for the older brother of Netane Muti, who plays as a guard for the Denver Broncos in the NFL.
Just three months ago the emerging prop found himself without a MLR club after his signing with the Dallas Jackals dissolved when the new club decided to delay its entry by a year.
“I’m super excited. I get to work with (scrum coach) Alex Corbisiero, who was an absolute beast at scrum-time for England, and soak up everything I can training with some legends of the game,” Muti said.
“I watched Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper playing for the Wallabies on TV when I was growing up in Tonga.
“I went into football and explored that side at university in California but I’ve had rugby in my blood since I was a little kid. I’ve enjoyed being back into it for a few seasons now.”
His signing is a major acknowledgement of Muti’s hunger to learn and improve after playing in Glendale this year with the Colorado XOs, a team formed through the progressive RugbyTown Crossover Academy.
Muti has benefited from that unique “crossover” experiment to coach talented football, basketball and track athletes into potential professionals in rugby.
Muti’s 265lb (120kg), 6’0” (1.83m) frame and his rugby grounding in Tonga gave him a headstart as well as his hitting power in the defensive line during his football days at California’s Azusa Pacific University.
“Those games with the XOs definitely helped me along. Playing football in the defensive line translates to the physicality you need in rugby which is an even more physical game without pads,” Muti said.
“My brother has gone to the NFL. Now, it’s time for me to make the step up in rugby,” Muti said.
Colorado XO Manager Peter Pasque said he was delighted with Muti securing a contract and the example he could be for other crossover athletes.
“He was a great leader and teacher for the other truly new players to the game with the XOs. We offered up Ma’ake to try out for the Giltinis and now he gets to make his dream come true of playing in MLR,” Pasque said.
The Giltinis need some extra prop back-up with JP Smith (knee), Marco Fepulea’i (knee-ankle), Luke White (hamstring) and Sione Tuihalamaka (tricep) all nursing injuries.
“Ma’ake caught our eye as a full-on athlete. He gets his chance now after being unlucky to miss out with Dallas,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.
The Giltinis are on the road to play the Houston SaberCats on Saturday at AVEVA Stadium in Houston from 5pm (PT).
The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.
Tickets are on sale for the April 24 clash against the San Diego Legion at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Visit our Tickets page for more information.